When children play with board games and puzzles, they are not only having fun and winding down from physical play, they are learning to solve problems, understand spatial relationships, coordinate movements, and negotiate with others. Children as young as three years old can sometimes play simple board games that use colors and symbols. But games are typically appropriate for children over the age of 5. At this point, their play tends to be more social and they are able to begin to understand the complexity of the many rules needed to be successful playing the game.
Be sure to have a variety of puzzles and games in your playspace that provide a wide range in difficulty level to meet the needs of children who will play in your playspace. Young children will enjoy puzzles with fewer pieces that are large and easy-to-grasp. Older children will enjoy puzzles that challenge their intellect, but that they are able to solve without assistance. Also, consider whether the puzzles are closed-ended or open-ended. Close-ended puzzles have one way to complete them and provide the child with the sense of success when they complete the puzzle. Open-ended puzzles have many ways that they can be completed and challenge the child to think creatively while solving the puzzle.
Check out this website of popular playground games: http://www.playgroundfun.org.uk/
Discount School Supply. Puzzles. http://www.discountschoolsupply.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?category=334&at=5
National Association for the Education of Young Children. (1997). Puzzles in early childhood education: Putting the pieces together. http://www.preschooleducation.com/art72.shtml
National Association for the Education of Young Children. (1996). Toys: Tools for learning. Early years are learning years. http://www.oakland.k12.mi.us/GREATPARENTS/parenting_basics/toys.pdf
Scholastic, Inc. Baby-Perfect Puzzle. http://content.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=1074&FullBreadCrumb=%3Ca+href%3D%22%2Fbrowse%2Fsearch.jsp%3Fquery%3Dpuzzle%26c1%3DCONTENT30%26c17%3D0%26c2%3Dfalse%22%3EAll+Results+%3C%2Fa%3E
(Photo courtesy of Snug and Outdoor)