10 of the best puzzles for children

Our pick of the most challenging and fun jigsaws and puzzles to entertain and educate

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It’s great playing with noisy toys that do exciting things but it’s also good – and brilliant for fast-developing children’s brains – to sit down to an old-school puzzle toy and have a go at piecing all the bits together.

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Puzzles and jigsaws make for nimble fingers and logical minds and to help you find the best for your little one, we’ve pulled together our favourites with the help of mums, children and toy experts.

There are novelty puzzles with included figurines and posters, those which use puzzles as a way to teach a specific skill and challenging options with more than 100 pieces.

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1. Usborne’s In the Jungle – Puzzle Book & Jigsaw, £9.99 – best for all-round entertainment

Age: 5+

Awards: MadeForMums Toy Awards 2019 Best Jigsaw/Puzzle – Gold

What it is: A colourful 100+ piece jigsaw which comes with a 24-page picture puzzle book.

Why we love it: This is a really engaging puzzle, which has plenty of learning opportunities. Name the different animals with your child and keep your eyes peeled for delightful illustrations showing things such as a sloth wearing slippers, crocodiles hiding in the water and toucans with identical beaks.

Edyta, MFM tester and mum to Ayaan, 5, said: “This is a really entertaining toy and excellent value for money. My son loved playing with it.”

It comes with a great little book too, which adds an extra element to the package. We think it’s ideal for children around the ages of 5 and 6, as it is more challenging than the likes of Crocodile Creek’s Puzzle Day at the Art Museum, but not as tricky as Usborne’s World Atlas.

Available from: Usborne, Amazon and Wordery.

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2. Usborne’s The World Atlas and Jigsaw, £9.99 best for older children

Age: 5 to 10

What it is: A beautifully illustrated, 300-piece jigsaw of the world map that comes with a 32-page picture atlas full of facts and famous sights. There are 100s of animals, landmarks and attractions to spot on the jigsaw and look up in the book.

Why we love it: There are so many layers of enjoyment and learning here. There’s the actual piecing together of the puzzle, the learning about the geography of the world, what animals live where and what famous landmarks you’ll find around the globe, and then the enriching experience of referencing the atlas once you have pieced together all the different countries. It’s a brilliant puzzle that would also make an excellent present.

MFM tester Abbey, who’s 8, said: “I really liked putting this jigsaw together. I was very interested to learn where all the countries are around the world. I can’t wait to go back to school and tell my friends about it!”

Because there are so many pieces, it’s best suited for slightly older kids, especially when compared to the other offerings mentioned here.

Available from: Usborne, Wordery and Amazon

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3. Crocodile Creek’s Puzzle Day at the Art Museum, £17 – best for arty kids

Age: 4+

Awards: MadeForMums Toy Awards 2019 Best Jigsaw/Puzzle – Silver

What it is: A 48-piece puzzle portraying a day at the museum, packaged in a uniquely shaped box.

Why we love it: This detailed puzzle is full of things to look at and youngsters will love pointing out all the different illustrated elements.

With fairly big pieces, it’s ideal for children aged 4 upwards.Claire, MFM tester and mum to Elijah, 6, and Teddy, 4, said: “This is such a gorgeous and fun puzzle. It is chunky, colourful and full of lovely details. The boys worked on the puzzle together and they really enjoyed it. We had just been to an art gallery so they were very interested in all of the details and asked questions about the art work.”

It’s slightly more expensive than some of the other puzzles mentioned here (Usborne’s In The Jungle puzzle is about £7 cheaper, for example) but it would make a gorgeous gift for a little one.

Available from: JeuJouet and Amazon

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4. Orchard Toys’ Number Street Jigsaw Puzzle and Poster, £11 – best for number crunching

Age: 2+

Awards: MadeForMums Toy Awards 2019 Best Jigsaw/Puzzle – Joint bronze

What it is: A fun jigsaw that encourages counting and includes a full-size poster.

Why we love it: This vibrant and engaging puzzle has plenty of opportunities for learning and our reviewers commented on the lovely quality of the toy. They also loved the fact the pieces are a good size for little hands and the puzzle isn’t too complicated.

Aimee Smales, mum to Dexter, 2, and William 4, said: “I never knew that a child could gain so much from one puzzle! My son was able to identify the different animals, numbers and colours, as well as problem solve to figure out where the pieces went. The first time he completed the puzzle, we laid out the accompanying poster, which he put the puzzle onto as he completed it. When he’d done, he went on to complete it a further 5 times within the first hour of opening it, finding something new to talk about and explore each time.”

Available from: John Lewis, Amazon and Orchard Toys

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5. Schleich A Day at the Farm Puzzle, £8.99 – best for animal lovers

Age: 4+

What it is: A 40-piece puzzle, depicting a bright and colourful farmyard scene, which comes with 2 collectable farm animal figurines.

Why we love it: This jigsaw is high quality – and we just love the animal figurines and how they give the whole thing an added dimension of fun.

MFM tester Becky, who’s mum to Jackson, 3, said: “The puzzle is well made and a good size for small hands. The bonus animal figures went down a treat, really capturing my Jackson’s imagination.”

Like the other scene-based puzzles mentioned here (such as Crocodile Creek’s Puzzle Day at the Art Museum), there’s plenty to look at and point out.

Available from: Amazon and ToyStreet

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6. Hacche Retail, 3D Foam Lion Puzzle, £7.99 – best for 3D modelling

Age: 5+

Awards: MadeForMums Toy Awards 2019 Best Jigsaw/Puzzle – Joint bronze

What it is: A brilliant 3D puzzle made up of simple push-together foam pieces, which can be completed in just 15 steps.

Why we love it: This lion is not only fun to create, but it also helps improve your child’s motor skills and cognitive development. There are 5 different animals to collect and as well as the lion you can choose between an elephant, crocodile, giraffe and panda. It doesn’t have any added extras (such as the poster included with Orchard Toys’ Number Street Puzzle or the book included with Usborne’s In the Jungle puzzle) or include lots of educational components (like Tidlo’s ABC Chunky Puzzle) but the fact you have a cool 3D model at the end of the process sets it apart from others on the list.

Available from: On sale in the UK soon

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7. Trefl Baby Classic: Safari, £6.27 – best for little ones

Age: 2+

What it is: A box of 4 animal-themed first puzzles, each made up of 2 to 5 pieces.

Why we love it: Our testers were excited by the lovely, chunky pieces and nice bright pictures on these puzzles. Animal-themed toys are always a winner and young kids will love putting these illustrations together.

It doesn’t come with any accompanying books or posters (like Orchard Toys’ Number Street Jigsaw Puzzle or Usborne’s In The Jungle toy) but it’s reasonably priced and we all thought the puzzles were perfectly pitched, difficulty-wise, for older toddlers.

Available from: Amazon

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8. Trefl Little Explorer Educational Clock, £4 – best for teaching the time

Age: 4+

What it is: An educational puzzle, themed around learning to tell the time. You use pictures, cards and a clock with moving hands to play 16 different clock games.

Why we love it: The puzzle pieces are clear and colourful, and there’s a good variety of games to play with them. Our testers got pretty excited about building a clock with hands that move around! It’s a bit more involved than some of the other straightforward jigsaw puzzles in this list, but it’s a great idea if you want to get hands on with your little one. And, best of all, it’s only £4 – which makes it the cheapest toy here.

Available from: Amazon

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9. Tidlo ABC Chunky Puzzle, £18.99 – best for letter learning

Age: 3+

What it is: A chunky board puzzle, with colourful pieces to help preschoolers learn the alphabet. It comes with 26 removable uppercase letters, with a picture matching the letter (O for octopus etc) underneath.

Why we love it: The pieces are easy for little hands to lift out, revealing a pretty picture beneath to help children associate letters with objects. It’s strong and well-made so this classic puzzle can be passed around the family from toddler to toddler, and won’t get destroyed as quickly as cardboard offerings such as the Trefl Baby Classic puzzle. It is quite a bit more expensive than the other puzzles included here though.

Available from: Amazon and Mulberry Bush

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Thomas & Friends Tile Playset, £19.99 – best for train fans

Age: 3+

What it is: An 8 jumbo-piece puzzle that forms a train track for a motorised Thomas the Tank Engine. The track pieces can be configured in up to 50 different ways.

Why we love it: We like that it comes with instructions for 6 simple tracks to get you started – and, of course, the little Thomas train makes this so much more than a jigsaw. MFM tester Ellie, who’s mum to Aviana, 3, said: “The individual jigsaw tiles were perfect for little hands and Aviana loves how fast Thomas goes. The fact that sometimes it derailed off the track and onto our floor made it even more entertaining as she had to chase after it!”

It may not be as obviously educational as some of the other puzzles on the market, such as Trefl’s Little Explorer Educational Clock, but your kids are sure to love it.

Available from: Amazon and Very

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