Puzzle solving helps infants pick up math skills

Puzzle solving helps infants pick up math skills

Children who love to play with puzzles between two and four years of age develop better spatial skills later, according to an analysis of video recordings.

"The children who played with puzzles performed better than those who did not on tasks that assessed their ability to rotate and translate shapes," said Susan Levine, professor of psychology and maths expert at the University of Chicago, who led the study.

The video recordings of parents interacting with children at home showed that kids who play with puzzles between 26 and 46 months of age have better spatial skills when assessed at 54 months of age, the journal Developmental Science reports.

Activities such as early puzzle play may lay the groundwork for the development of this ability, the study found, according to a Chicago statement.

The study is the first to look at puzzle play in a naturalistic setting, based on an analysis of 53 child-parent pairs from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds.

Researchers video-recorded parent-child interactions for 90-minute sessions that occurred every four months between 26 and 46 months of age.

The parents were asked to interact with their children as they normally would, and about half of the children in the study played puzzles at one time.

Both boys and girls who played with puzzles had better spatial skills, but boys played with more complicated puzzles than girls, and the parents of boys provided more spatial language during puzzle play and were more engaged in play than the parents of girls.

Boys also performed better than girls on a mental transformation task given at 54 months of age. The research on puzzle play is part of a series of studies based on observations in naturalistic settings Levine has led.