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These are the Best Puzzles for Preschoolers

Puzzles are great educational toys for kids. With such a variety of different types available, you may be wondering which are the most suitable and beneficial for your preschoolers at home or at school.

Here is a breakdown of the best puzzles for preschoolers between the ages of 3 and 5 years (find the best puzzles for toddlers here).

While you may need to get a few sets of the same type of puzzle to have enough for a classroom, if you are buying for your kids at home it’s not necessary to buy lots. A few, well-chosen puzzles that increase in difficulty and develop different skills can be all your child needs. 

There is also no obvious answer to which are the best, but I like to offer a variety of different types to challenge kids. These are my favourites for preschoolers.

I have linked some examples of different types of puzzles from Amazon, but most of these can be found in educational shops or other online stores. 

Children doing jigsaw puzzles. Text reads "15 awesome puzzles for preschoolers".

This post contains affiliate links for educational products that I personally recommend. If you purchase through one of them, I earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Read the terms and conditions for more details.

What Kinds of Puzzles Can Preschoolers Do?

If you’re wondering what kinds of puzzles a 3 or 4-year-old can do, the answer is it depends on the child.

There is lots of info online suggesting the number of pieces your child “should” be on, which can make you question if your child is behind. 

For example, my own daughter wasn’t doing a 12-piece when she was 3 and neither were many of the kids I taught of that age, but some could do a 24-piece.

What’s important is not what the averages say, but rather that you give children exposure to puzzles that are appropriate for their level and ability.

They should be steadily progressing and increasing the number and type they can do as they grow. 

There is a range that is fairly normal though, so your 5-year-old should not still be struggling with a 12-piece, for example.

Children doing a jigsaw puzzle together

Generally, preschoolers move past peg puzzles and basic 2 or 4-piece puzzles and start putting more pieces together.

A 3-year-old may still be mastering a 6 or 8-piece, and a 4-year-old may get to a 48-piece puzzle. 

My daughter found the jump from her favourite 4-piece puzzles to 12-piece puzzles very big. She spent a few months doing her puzzles with 6 or 9 pieces before moving on to 12 pieces.

Tips for Choosing Puzzles

Here are a few guidelines for choosing the most suitable puzzles for your kids’ level:

  • Sturdy, wooden puzzles are always better than flimsy, cheap puzzles. They are also easier to learn with.
  • Puzzles should be challenging but doable. Any puzzle that is too difficult or time-consuming will become frustrating and demotivating.
  • Offer a variety of puzzles – those with a wooden border, those without a border, cube puzzles, large floor puzzles, etc.
  • Puzzle sets with multiple pieces should have symbols on the back for easy sorting.

Why are Puzzles Good for Preschoolers?

Puzzles are important for toddlers’ and preschoolers’ development in many ways –  they develop skills such as:

Read about the benefits of puzzles in early childhood.

The Best Puzzles for Preschoolers

These are a few of the different types of puzzles for preschoolers from 3 to 5 years (and beyond).

Wooden Puzzles in a Tray

Good quality puzzles come with a sturdy, wooden tray. I find the Melissa and Doug puzzles are the best quality.

Choose the number of pieces suited to your child’s level.

Some 3-year-olds are still working their way up to 12-piece puzzles and will need to start with fewer pieces. Older preschoolers may get to 48 pieces and beyond.

Here are some 9-piece puzzles:

NASHRIO Wooden Puzzles for Toddlers 2-5 Years Old(Set of 6), 9 Pieces Preschool...
  • HAVING FUN: Our 9-piece puzzles make learning fun for all kids! These entertaining wooden jigsaw puzzles are a...
  • COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT: These kids animal puzzles can help kids to develop their hand-eye coordination,...

These 12-piece puzzles come in a super handy box with a wooden lid to build the puzzles on. They are marked at the back for easy sorting:

Melissa & Doug Pets 4-in-1 Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles in a Storage Box (48 pcs) - FSC Certified
  • Four wooden jigsaw puzzles: a fish, a dog, a cat, and a bird
  • 12-piece puzzles

These 20-piece puzzles are also a good option because the picture is on the border too, which helps kids to match the colours and images as they fit the pieces:

Puzzles for Kids Ages 3-5 Toddler Wooden Toys Montessori Learning Education Preschool Sets...
  • Fun Learning Way: Adorable pictures and realistic looking get attention of your kids, let them try to complete...
  • Early Development: The vibrant puzzle encourages your kiddos to put the pieces together, will develop the...

Any of the 24-piece puzzles in this range are great puzzles for preschoolers:

Melissa & Doug Under the Sea Ocean Animals Wooden Jigsaw Puzzle With Storage Tray (24 pcs)
  • OCEAN-THEMED JIGSAW PUZZLES: The Melissa & Doug Under the Sea Wooden Jigsaw Puzzle features 24 durable wooden...
  • STURDY WOODEN STORAGE TRAY: Our ocean floor puzzle comes with a sturdy wooden storage tray made of...

To challenge those who are ready, move on to a 48-piece puzzle:

Melissa & Doug Construction Vehicles Wooden Jigsaw Puzzle With Storage Tray (48 pcs)
  • FUN & EDUCATIONAL PUZZLE: The Melissa & Doug Construction Vehicles Building Site is a 48-piece wooden puzzle...
  • BEAUTIFUL ARTWORK: Our 48-piece wooden jigsaw puzzle for kids features beautiful original artwork that depicts...

Cube Puzzles

Challenge kids with a cube puzzle. They will also be building their problem-solving and sorting skills as they first turn all the cubes onto the picture they want to build – such as the sheep or the cow.

Cube puzzles have multiple puzzles in one, and in a 3-dimensional format. They should also have a wooden tray to contain the pieces neatly.

Melissa & Doug Farm Wooden Cube Puzzle With Storage Tray - 6 Puzzles in 1 (16 pcs) - FSC...
  • Match picture clues to complete six favorite farm animals
  • 16 cubes and a durable wooden tray; 6 puzzles in one

Floor Puzzles

Floor puzzles have large pieces and are good for developing gross motor skills as well as fine motor skills. 

Here’s a 24-piece puzzle:

Melissa & Doug Safari Social Jumbo Jigsaw Floor Puzzle (24 pcs, 2 x 3 feet) - FSC...
  • 24-piece cardboard jigsaw floor puzzle with bright and colorful safari animal theme
  • Features fun illustrations of safari animals (lion, giraffe, monkey, crocodile, elephant, snake)

Here’s a stunning 48-piece puzzle:

Melissa & Doug Underwater Ocean Floor Puzzle (48 pcs, 2 x 3 feet) - FSC Certified
  • 48 extra-thick cardboard pieces
  • Beautiful original artwork

Number and Letter Puzzles

These are more suitable for older preschoolers who are able to associate numbers with objects, or letters with sounds.

Here are some basic number puzzles:

TREND ENTERPRISES: Fun-to-Know Puzzles: Numbers 1-20, Learn Numbers, Counting & Sets, 20...
  • Fun, 2-piece puzzles teach children numbers 1 to 20
  • Only matching pieces fit together

This is a giant number floor puzzle:

Melissa & Doug Farm Number Jumbo Floor Puzzle (24 pcs, 2 x 3 feet)
  • Cardboard jigsaw floor puzzle (3-feet-by-2-feet assembled) with photos of farm animals, crops, and equipment...
  • 24 extra-thick cardboard pieces; each vibrant color block includes a numeral, the number written out, and the...

Here are some self-correcting wooden alphabet puzzles with a storage box:

Melissa & Doug Self-Correcting Alphabet Wooden Puzzles With Storage Box (52 pcs) - ABC...
  • EDUCATIONAL ALPHABET LETTER PUZZLE: The Melissa & Doug Self-Correcting Alphabet Letter Puzzle set includes 52...
  • SELF-CORRECTING PUZZLE: “Self-correcting” means each piece has only one match that it fits, so kids can...

This is the alphabet floor puzzle from Melissa and Doug:

Melissa & Doug Alphabet Express Jumbo Jigsaw Floor Puzzle (27 pcs, 10 feet long) - FSC...
  • 27 extra-thick cardboard pieces
  • Easy-Clean surface keeps puzzle looking new

Geographical Puzzles

I am going to add puzzles of the world to this list purely because I think this is a super hands-on and visual way to learn about the countries. 

This is a puzzle your kids can keep for years after preschool (it’s probably a bit too advanced for preschool). You could also get a map of the country you live in.

Your kids will be learning about the world throughout school, so instead of making them memorize the country names and positions, why not let them learn without it feeling like work?

As a person born in South Africa, I can’t tell you how many times I have been abroad and had someone ask me where South Africa is, or whether it is in Australia!

It’s a good idea to teach your kids that there’s a whole world out there beyond where they live.

Here are two options that are not too advanced:

Melissa & Doug World Map Jumbo Jigsaw Floor Puzzle (33 pcs, 2 x 3 feet)
  • EASY-TO-ASSEMBLE FLOOR PUZZLE: The Melissa & Doug World Map Jumbo Jigsaw Floor Puzzle is a 33-piece,...
  • EDUCATIONAL DETAILS: This puzzle allows kids to explore the world while learning the location, shapes, and...
Imagimake Mapology World Map Puzzle - Includes Country Flags & Capitals | Fun Jigsaw...
  • EXPLORE THE WORLD FROM HOME - Considered amongst the best puzzle games, this World Puzzle with Flags and...
  • KEY FEATURES - The set includes three foam puzzle frames, 75 puzzle pieces shaped like countries for spatial...

These are not the only types of puzzles available but you don’t need to purchase every single type to give kids enough practice doing them. Choose a few good ones. Kids will also get exposure to other types of puzzles at school, at home, at friends’ houses, etc.

Get your own set of printable puzzles here!. These are fun to add to your collection but shouldn’t replace real puzzles, as kids need to master how to join physical pieces.

Are you a preschool teacher or working in Early Childhood Education? Would you like to receive regular emails with useful tips and play-based activity ideas to try with your children? Sign up for the newsletter!

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