Play idea: Puzzles – Panga

Puzzle play involves thinking out problems and using hands and fingers for coordination.

Level of compliance Main audience Other


  • All early learning services 
  • Educators, teachers and kaiako
  • Service managers
  • Parents, caregivers and whānau

Children learn through play. Below is some information about a play idea for your children.

Puzzle play is usually done alone, but can be done in cooperation with others.

Puzzle play can help children to

  • develop hand-eye coordination
  • develop finger and hand muscles
  • learn to solve problems
  • learn to reason and deal with frustration
  • learn to persevere and be patient.

Adults can support children by

  • keeping the puzzle area tidy and organised
  • allowing them to do the puzzles at their own pace
  • taking an interest but not taking over
  • accepting that they will make mistakes and letting them know that it’s okay
  • suggesting different ways of doing things
  • talking to them about what they are doing.

Providing for puzzles

Children can work on the floor or at a low table. Display puzzles well and make sure they are in easy reach of the children.

Ideas for puzzles

There needs to be a good range of puzzles for children of all ages and interests including:

  • one piece to multi-piece
  • from simple to difficult to challenging
  • showing a range of subjects and patterns.

Te Whāriki

Puzzle play supports learning across all strands of Te Whāriki. In particular, puzzles support the communication strand as children experience the symbols of their culture including that of numbers and other mathematical concepts. Through the exploration strand children develop working theories about spatial understanding and they learn strategies for active exploration, thinking and reasoning.

This play idea has been developed for playgroups. Feel free to use it at other types of ECE service, but make sure you're still following the regulations and licensing criteria that apply to your service type. Parents may also find this information useful.

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