Tangram For Kids: Why You Need It At Home
In today’s digital world, it has become a challenge for parents to sway their kids to stick to playing educational toys instead. With one tap, children can download any app they want to play. It’s convenient and entertaining, but as a parent, you know that your child can learn so much more when he/she plays with educational toys such as puzzles. The Tangram puzzle teaches children about basic math, which helps them learn about spatial relationships as well as develop their problem-solving skills.
What is a Tangram Puzzle?
Tangram puzzles were invented in China. It is a two-dimensional puzzle that comes with seven geometric shapes. These seven pieces are what is called the “tans.” A tangram is composed of:
- 2 large triangles (right angle)
- 1 medium-sized triangles (right angle)
- 2 small triangles (right angle)
- 1 small square
- 1 parallelogram
Children play with the Tangram puzzle to form a big rectangle, triangle, or square. At first, the child will see the shape formed properly; the challenge comes when the pieces are separated and the child will have to put them back together.
While the big geometric shapes are the typical final designs the tangram come with, children are still encouraged to exercise their creativity. With the seven tans, children can create their own designs like animals or mini-castles, depending on their imagination.
It is quite similar to playing with blocks. Children will start off copying or trying to achieve the image in the diagram or packaging. But after that, it’s where the magic happens. Children will now have the initiative to start creating their own designs. However, the big difference between the tangram and blocks is that with the tangram, children will only use seven puzzle pieces to create an image/visual representation of something. This is where they practice manipulating the different shapes given the limitation.
What are the benefits of a Tangram Puzzle?
Apart from being able to exercise their creativity, what are the other benefits of playing tangram puzzles for kids?
- Understanding Spatial Relationships
Playing with tangrams helps children learn about spatial relationships at an early age, but why is this so important? Spatial relationship awareness is one’s ability to understand how two or more objects located in a specific space are related to one another. This is a cognitive skill that will be helpful for children to develop when they’re young because it can affect how they see spaces, even when they’re putting letter blocks together.
With tangrams, children manipulate the puzzle pieces by changing the angles, which then shows them the different perspectives, too. They learn about what the shapes look like when put together, when rotated, or switched around. Children who practice visualising spatial relationships will also boost their visual-spatial skills at the same time.
- Prepare Them for Math
In a study by Yi Ling Cheng and Kelly Mix of Michigan University, they asked six to eight-year-old kids to perform spatial tasks like how tangram puzzle is played. This served as a way to prepare the kids for math. The kids were separated into two groups. The first group did mental rotation training, while the other group did crossword puzzles. After 40 minutes, the kids who tried solving the shape rotation puzzles for 40 minutes did better in a pencil-and-paper math test, while the children who did crossword puzzles didn’t experience the same effect.
- Calculate Without Formula
Through playing tangram puzzles, children can also learn the basic concept of calculating area without the use of a formula. This will introduce the concept of intuitive sense geometry to young kids. Through visual-spatial awareness, they are comparing the shapes immediately in their minds. Their brains are already trying to think of different ways to manipulate the shapes, which will be helpful in their geometrical problem-solving skills in the future without relying on a formula.
Here are the other benefits of playing tangram puzzles and why teachers and educators use this educational toy in classrooms:
- Children discover and learn shapes.
- They develop a passion and love for geometry early on.
- They understand spatial relationships better through both visualising and manipulating with their hands.
- They have a better understanding of how shapes can be both formed and de-formed.
- Their spatial rotation skills will be honed through the manipulation (flip, rotate, switch around).
- Children also learn about congruence or how shapes are formed in harmony or compatibility with each other.
Will my child always play this alone?
We often get that misconception that working with puzzles is often done alone, and that’s not true at all. Puzzles can be a form of group play; it can foster teamwork and understanding among a group of children. In fact, when working on big puzzle boards, children feel more motivated when they help each other find the right puzzle pieces to put together. It’s the same with tangram. The challenge this puzzle presents can initiate cooperation in children.
Parents can also take part in the tangram puzzle for toddler fun. If your child is still young, you can already introduce spatial vocabularies like triangle, square, line, and rectangle. The earlier they understand what shapes are, the earlier they will develop spatial relationship awareness and skills. Don’t be afraid to teach your child new concepts as long as you’re explaining them clearly.
Additionally, you can also talk to your child about tangram instead of just playing with them. It is proven that talking to kids about math and science helps them learn the concepts faster, especially when they explain their answers. Instead of just showing your child how to rotate the shapes, ask them what happens if they rotate a square. Ask your child what happens if he/she moves the shapes or flip the shapes around? When they explain their answers to you, that’s where the comprehension really begins.
A final word
Tangram puzzles for kids are educational and entertaining. But more than that, it prepares your child’s mind for concepts that he/she will use in the future. As early as now, you can teach your child geometric concepts and lay the groundwork for them to develop spatial relationship awareness and skills. This will not only help with arithmetic, but it will also be crucial to how they play their other toys and how they’ll go about learning alphabets and numbers.