7 Best Puzzles for 3 Year Olds

At 3 years old, children are beginning to learn more and more about colors, shapes, and the letters of the alphabet. Puzzles, whether for educational purposes or hand-eye coordination purposes, are beneficial tools to use. Puzzles can be done at home and in the car. Puzzles with larger pieces and flatter boards can make great lap time activities when in smaller spaces as well.

Continue reading to see what the seven best puzzles are for children that are three years old (and why), as well as what to do if they are easy for your child and examples of puzzles to pick from in that situation. Additionally, you'll see how mixing puzzle play with crafts allows for more one-on-one time with your child. 


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3 Year Olds and Their Puzzles

At 3 years old, developmentally, children are starting to investigate the world and are able to do more. This is where puzzles can come into play. Puzzles can help your child become more familiar with colors, shapes, and counting. Puzzles with larger or thicker pieces can make accomplishing them easier for your child.

Match It! Opposites by The Learning Journey

Match It! Opposites have 30 two-piece puzzles for your child to enjoy. The puzzle pieces are self-correcting, meaning one piece will only fit together with its paired piece. The pieces contained in this puzzle box are larger and thicker for smaller hands to handle. A few examples of the opposites are:

  • A bird flying free and a pet bird
  • A boy and a girl
  • The sun and the moon

This puzzle would be a great puzzle to do with your child. This puzzle can help encourage communication with your child; for example:

  • What other opposites can you find at home?
  • What opposites can be found outside?

This puzzle can also be done by your child independently. With the self-correcting pieces, your child will always put the correct opposites together. This way, too, the puzzle cannot become confusing, and your child can learn on their own.

Animal Parade A-Z Puzzle and Playset by BeginAgain

The Animal Parade from BeginAgain is a puzzle and a playset in one. Each letter of the alphabet is assigned to an animal-shaped puzzle piece, with each animal matching the letter. Some examples of the animals included are:

  • A for alligator
  • G for gorilla
  • O for octopus
  • S for snake
  • Z for zebra

Each piece is thicker for smaller hands to hold. While the pieces fit together, they can also be placed inside the wooden storage box. Each piece contains a capitalized and lower-case form of each letter on each side of the piece. This can help your child start to familiarize both forms of each letter and, regardless of which side of the animal is showing, the letter can be viewed.

The pieces of this puzzle can also be taken out and played with. This puzzle playset can allow your child's imagination to run wild. Any type of play can be done with these animal-shaped puzzle pieces. This puzzle would be great for independent play or a puzzle you and your child can do together. 

Your child will learn the alphabet or, if they already know the alphabet, extra repetition is never a bad thing. Each of the pieces can help your child start to recognize animals and the letters associated with them. "U" for "Unicorn" is the only imaginary animal associated with this puzzle; however, unicorn toys and stuffed animals can be found everywhere.

4 in 1 Wooden Educational Shape Color Sorting Puzzles by JOYIN Toy

The 4 in 1 Shape Color Sorting Puzzles can offer hand and eye coordination play for your 3 year old. Four wooden boards are included in this box with two different types of puzzles:

  • Shape and color sorting
  • Number counting

Two of the boards will allow for fitting shapes, either circles or angled pieces. The other two boards will allow for number counting by counting the holes in the pieces and sliding these pieces into place. All the pieces are thicker and can also be used to stack or build without using the puzzle boards. The puzzle pieces come in:

  • Red
  • Green
  • Blue
  • Yellow

These are all standard first colors to learn. This will also allow for the puzzle pieces to be sorted into four different colored categories.

Bear Family Dress-Up Puzzle by Melissa & Doug

This Bear Family Dress-Up Puzzle includes 45 pieces that can play along with the story of the Three Bears, including dressing up:

  • Mama Bear
  • Papa Bear
  • Baby Bear

The bears come with different facial expressions and different outfits for each. The top of the wooden container has outlined shapes for each bear to make choosing outfits easier. However, these pieces can also be placed on the floor, allowing your child to mix and match all the clothing pieces with all the bears. Your child can have the opportunity to play out different stories of their own or continue the story already known.

Wooden Peg Puzzles Bundle with Storage Rack by Wood City

The Peg Puzzle Bundle includes six different puzzles your child can enjoy. These puzzles include:

  • Alphabet A-Z
  • Numbers
  • Shapes
  • Transportation
  • Dinosaurs

These puzzles can keep your child busy for hours. Each piece on all the puzzles comes with a peg handle to make removing and placing the pieces easier for little hands. The numbers puzzle board comes with:

  • Addition symbol
  • Subtraction symbol
  • Multiplication symbol
  • Division symbol
  • Equals sign

These extra pieces included in the numbers puzzle board may not be of use in the beginning. Given the durability of the puzzle board and pieces, it can help learn mathematical equations later. The letters, numbers, and shapes all come in a variety of colors. The transportation, animals, and dinosaur puzzles all come with nicely painted backgrounds. This allows your child to see that helicopters are usually in the sky or that a monkey likes to be in a tree.

This bundle also includes a storage rack where each puzzle can slide into its shelf. This can help keep your child's room or play area tidy. It will also keep the puzzles together, so no pieces get lost or misplaced.

Animal, Dinosaurs, Ocean, Vehicle Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles by LiKee

The Animals, Dinosaurs, Ocean, and Vehicle Jigsaw Puzzles are all sold separately, but the puzzles' makeup is the same. Each puzzle option comes with one puzzle board and 32 pieces. The 32 pieces are double-sided, giving your child the ability to put together eight different images of the chosen puzzle style.

Each puzzle image has a different colored background, so your child can find the pieces that go with each image. This can aid in color sorting and concentration.

The Animal Jigsaw Puzzle pack includes the following animals:

  • Wapiti – also known as an Elk
  • Panda
  • Tiger
  • Mouse
  • Red Ibis – also known as a Scarlet Ibis
  • Toucan
  • Lion
  • Bear

The Dinosaur Jigsaw Puzzle pack includes the following dinosaurs:

  • Kentrosaurus
  • Velociraptor
  • Tanystropheus
  • Stegosaurus
  • Triceratops
  • Huayangosaurus
  • Diplodocus
  • Spinosaurus

The Ocean Jigsaw Puzzle pack includes the following water living creatures:

  • Clownfish
  • Sea Horse
  • Sea Turtle
  • Dolphin
  • Whale
  • Tropical Fish
  • Damsel-Fish
  • Carp

The Vehicle Jigsaw Puzzle pack includes the following vehicles:

  • Truck
  • Excavator
  • Train
  • Plane
  • Bike
  • Steamer
  • Submarine
  • Trailer

These puzzles can aid your child in learning and working on problem-solving skills and concentration. Since all the puzzle pieces are the exact same, your child will have to learn to put the puzzle in order from front to back or back to front.

Personalized Wood Name Puzzle by Enjoy the Wood

The Personalized Wood Name Puzzle will be a great puzzle purchase for any 3 year old. It can help children learn to spell their names. There are eight different designs for this puzzle:

  • Dinosaurs
  • Hedgehogs
  • Unicorn
  • Safari
  • Rainbow
  • Cars
  • Rockets
  • Planets

Being able to choose the background design for the letters adds to the customization of this puzzle. Another way this puzzle can be customized is you can choose from 12 different color choices of the letters themselves and add names up to nine letters long.

This is similar to a pegboard puzzle because each letter will have its own peg. These pegboard puzzles will also include two characters associated with the chosen theme that will be placed on the board, as well as your child's name in the middle. This puzzle can give your child the confidence to learn the letters in their name. Your child can be on his or her way to spelling his or her name in no time.

When Your 3 Year Old Needs More Challenging Puzzles

Some 3 year olds will develop quicker than others. Some 3 year olds might require more challenging puzzles as well. Thankfully, puzzles come in groups for kids of all ages. You know your child best and will know when the time is right to start bringing in more challenging puzzles to work on.

Match It! Counting by The Learning Journey

Match It! Counting is similar to the Match It! Opposites listed above. This puzzle also comes with 30 paired puzzle pieces that only pair with their corresponding piece. Your child will learn to count higher than ten by matching the number itself with the card with items that can be counted. For example:

  • The number 1 matches with 1 fire truck.
  • The number 4 matches with 4 cars.
  • The number 6 matches with 6 butterflies.

These puzzles can encourage counting and adding numbers together. The puzzle pieces are thicker and can easily be handled for smaller hands. This puzzle can be done independently or with a parent or grandparent. Each number pair is also color-specific, so your child can continue to learn the colors as he or she counts. The items used on these puzzle pieces are all recognizable objects as well.

Match It! Spelling by The Learning Journey

The box for Match It! Spelling says this puzzle is for children 4 years of age and up, but can still be done by a 3 year old with parental supervision. This puzzle teaches children to spell three- and four-letter words. Each word spelled has a picture of the word so your child can learn association.

These puzzle pieces also include the self-correcting puzzle pieces so words will never be spelled wrong. The words cow and cake are a couple of examples included in this puzzle box. Match It! Spelling can aid in learning letters that make up the words and continuation of letter learning in general.

U.S.A. 51 Piece Floor Puzzle by Melissa & Doug

For any child interested in maps or learning about the state he or she lives in, the U.S.A. Floor Puzzle is for them. This puzzle, when put together, measures three feet by two feet. This puzzle has brightly colored larger pieces. There is a square border, and the states are shaped as they are on a map. The smaller states are grouped together on a larger puzzle piece, so no tiny missing state pieces here!

Each state has listed:

  • The state name
  • The capital of the state
  • What the state is known for
  • The Golden Gate Bridge for California
  • The mountains in Colorado
  • A spaceship for Florida
  • The Statue of Liberty for New York

Alaska and Hawaii are also included, as well as the surrounding oceans, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Great Lakes. The images located in the states themselves help your child learn about the United States of America. It also allows for the capital and state to be recognized as a pair together.

Puzzle Crafts for 3 Year Olds

If your child loves puzzles and crafting, a great idea is to combine the two. These activities combined can make great rainy day relief, or at times when a little extra quiet time for Mommy or Daddy is needed.

DIY Birdhouse Kit for Kids by Mantyplay

The DIY Birdhouse Kit most likely will need adult supervision or help. Assembly assistance of the birdhouses (this is a two-pack) by an adult can help your child see how the house goes together. It can also help incorporate building skills. The pieces are larger, so your child might be able to assemble the pieces alone as well. Since this is a two-pack, the houses can be done together or saved for two separate times.

Once the birdhouse is assembled, you can set the paints up, hand your child a paintbrush, and let them go. This gives your child complete creative control of what he or she wants the birdhouse to look like. Once the birdhouse is fully decorated, it can be hung inside the house for decoration or hung outside for birds to use.

Blank Jigsaw Puzzles by Bright Creations

The Blank Jigsaw Puzzles can be great for all types of crafts. The completed puzzle has nine pieces, and this pack includes 24 separate puzzles. Having a blank puzzle to start with allows your child to design their own puzzle however he or she wants to. Decorating the puzzles can be done using:

  • Markers
  • Paint
  • Crayons

Once your child finishes decorating their puzzle and it has completely dried, it can be taken apart and put back together for years to come. In the event your child wants to save the puzzle and keep it whole, any type of puzzle glue will work. 

One form of puzzle glue is Mod Podge Puzzle Saver. For Mod Podge Puzzle Saver, simply paint over the front of the puzzle and let it dry; it should take about 15 minutes, possibly less for how small the puzzle is. For added protection, a coat can be added to the bottom of the puzzle as well. Once completely dry, the puzzle will have a glossy finish.

Another form of puzzle glue is Puzzle Presto! Peel & Stick Puzzle Saver. This application is cleaner than glue. Simply peel the backing off one of the strips and place it over the back of the puzzle. This package includes enough strips to cover a 1,000 piece puzzle, so cutting the strips down to fit a smaller puzzle size is doable.

Other craft ideas that work well with blank puzzles is to let your child decorate:

  • Birthday invitations to friends
  • Pictures drawn or colored to family members

Anyone receiving a puzzle invitation or picture will have fun putting it together, and your child can have a ton of fun creating it.

Conclusion

In summation, finding puzzles for 3 year olds will be relatively easy. The variety of puzzles available can open the door to your child's imagination and keep him or her busy for hours. The best puzzles will include shapes, colors, and letters. These types of puzzles can make learning easier for your child due to repetition. Larger pieces will help your child with their hand-eye coordination and aid in concentration. 

You know your child best. If your child can cruise through putting a puzzle together quickly, you have different options. You can try a different type of puzzle or a puzzle with more pieces that can make the puzzle more challenging for your child.


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