Montessori friendly puzzles and how to progress from one to another

Puzzles were my daughter’s favourites toys when she was little.

From the moment she discovered her first peg jigsaw at 1 year old to around the age of 4, she spent long periods every day completing various puzzles.

Puzzles are a material that your child can progress into from toddlerhood to childhood.

What to present first and how to progress from simple to the more complex and from concrete to the more abstract one.
Here is in detail how to introduce puzzles (I don’t give you ages as it will depend on your child)

Big knobs puzzle with real pictures

Possibly a single picture or shape jigsaws to isolate what you want to teach. I started with realistic pictures as it’s concrete for the child.

This one can be presented one piece at a time:

Then I introduced shapes jigsaws. You can find a single shape or 3 shapes jigsaw on Absorbent minds. I have the 3 shapes.
Unless you buy specific Montessori material, it’s quite hard to find a single picture or single shape puzzle, so I introduced early on 3 to 5 pieces jigsaws to finally offer many pieces puzzles.

I had this one (bought in a charity shop)

Goula, Hape, Goki are great brands that offers big knob puzzles.

To start with, it’s easier when the pieces match the pictures underneath then you can have only the shapes to help the child to find the right piece. Some jigsaws have a surprise underneath too.

Small knobs puzzles

To refine the 3 fingers grip even further, you can also offer small knobs puzzles.

this one (the missing piece is somewhere else in my house!) is all about the animals from Europe, I have another one from Africa.

This one is from Melissa and Doug, they have many very realistic puzzles. This one is supposed to make the animal sounds when you place the pieces back on, I never add the batteries.

Size comparison puzzles

Here the images are the same but in a different size. You can also offer graded colour jigsaws.

All the above are one-to-one correspondence kind of jigsaws. I liked to extend the possibilities of those by matching the pieces to pictures, the shapes jigsaws by introducing cards to match each shape to an outline or if the shapes were of different colours, I used to suggest matching each piece to a coloured card. If you have lost a piece, don’t throw away the puzzles, stick a magnet on the back and use them on the fridge! Or keep the piece for a treasure basket or a matching game.

Pieces to make a whole picture – First Jigsaw puzzles

Here come the real jigsaws! When you make a picture with different pieces.

We had this one to start with. It’s still with knobs but all the pieces make a whole picture
Goula Lift out puzzle

Jigsaw with no pictures:

Those puzzles are for young toddlers after they have mastered peg puzzles. They are an introduction to jigsaw puzzles with a picture cut into parts.

Those puzzles are simple on purpose. 

Young toddlers need to repeat activities. Repetition leads to more concentration. This material will help your child focus on the connecting action without the pressure of representing a picture.  Check Liloutoys for this exclusive puzzle set. 



2 pieces of jigsaws are the first ones to introduce.

I had many 2 pieces of jigsaws from Orchard toys. I found most of them in charity shops.

In some boxes, there are a few puzzles with a different number of pieces, one 2 pieces, one 4 pieces, and one 6 pieces. Like this one about London’s landmarks. (From ELC)

This one is from Diset and I love that it is a real pictures. The pieces fit inside a frame which was a nice transition from the knob puzzle to the proper puzzle. Here is a similar one:

And this one:

Then there are various more complex puzzles such as

Layered jigsaws

These layered jigsaws are from Beleduc, now rebranded Hape. You can often find them at Lidl. I have the boy, the girl, and the pregnant lady.

Cube jigsaws

these were so hard to master for my children! I do remember having one when I was little.

3D jigsaws

This one is from Oxfam.

I have my eyes on this one at yesbebe website! And very difficult jigsaws!

(my children love Wally so thinking of offering one!)

Puzzles are seriously one of my weakness and I still buy new ones and find bargains in charity shops to offer variety in my playgroup (and my two children are now happily completing 50 to 100 pieces jigsaws at home).

Which ones are your favourites jigsaws or puzzles? Let me know in the comments!

Number puzzle, with things to count underneath

Colour puzzle, matching game

Chunky fraction jigsaw

What goes together puzzle

Wooden puzzle 12 pieces

3 pieces jigsaw

Layered puzzle

Number elephant puzzle

Part of Montessori puzzle, skeleton underneath

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About the Author Carine Robin

Carine Robin has a Master’s Degree in Psychology, specialising in child psychology. She worked for various social services in her home country of Belgium, before moving to Ireland in 2006. It was there that she started working in a nursery and discovered Montessori education. After having her first child, her passion for the philosophy grew and she qualified as a Montessori teacher and managed a preschool. Carine has been running a Montessori based parents and toddler group and coaching families for 9 years. She now also runs an online group for over 14000 parents, sharing her knowledge and passion with people from around the world. In 2018, Carine realised families needed more support and launched her popular online parenting courses and monthly subscription boxes, full of personally designed Montessori materials.