Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved working on puzzles. It didn’t really matter what kind of puzzles it was… word searches, jigsaws, logic puzzles, and of course, rebus puzzles (perhaps better known as picture puzzles although they often include a combination of pictures and individual letters). I always loved reading as a kid, too, so it’s no surprise now that some of my favorite books are the ones that embed a puzzle within its pages for the reader to be challenged right along with the characters working to solve them too.
Little did I know as a kid that the puzzles I loved solving were great for my personal growth and development as well as being just plain fun for me. For children, puzzles are incredible tools that support their development in many ways including concentration, spatial awareness, language, and problem-solving skills. The rebus puzzles I’ve always loved involve decoding pictures and following instructions to make a new word. The word searches introduce new vocabulary words and support spelling skills. The jigsaw puzzles I did with family promoted teamwork, collaboration, and brought conversation and laughter to family time.
Kids aren’t the only ones who can also benefit from puzzles. Adults who do puzzles can increase their mental speed and improve memory as the connections in the brain are reinforced during the activity. Additionally, puzzles may enhance problem-solving skills because of the different approaches often taken through trial and error in order to find the solution. Working on puzzles exercises and strengthens both sides of the brain giving both the logical and creative brain functions a healthy workout. And that’s not all. While doing puzzles supports a healthy mind, they can help to decrease stress levels, reduce fatigue, and improve your mood and your self-confidence too thanks to the increased production of dopamine in your brain whenever you achieve puzzle success.
So, don’t wait any longer. Do yourself a favor and grab a puzzle of any kind. Your brain and body will thank you for it.
Try out some of these puzzling books to get started!
Babies and Toddlers
Looky Looky Little One Under the Sea by Sandra Magsamen
Looky looky at an exciting new approach to early learning and introduce your little one to our great, big, beautiful world! In this can-you-find board book adventure, dive into activities that will exercise young brains and challenge little ones to search for and identify objects, colors, numbers, shapes, sounds, animals, and ocean themes.
Animals by Chihiro Takeuchi
Featuring hundreds of small graphic animal shapes forming dizzying patterns, this colorful, stylish board book promises hours of engagement and a world of discovery and delight on every page.
Richard Scarry’s Busytown Seek and Find! With Lots of Things to Find! by Richard Scarry
An engaging seek-and-find board book set in the world of Richard Scarry’s beloved Busytown invites a new generation of fans to explore high-detail spreads to discover hidden objects and an assortment of favorite characters, from Huckle Cat and Lowly Worm to Miss Honey and Goldbug.
On the Farm! by Sandra Magsamen
Illustrations and easy-to-read text invite children to explore pictures of farmers, their animals, equipment, and buildings, seeking to identify objects, colors, numbers, and more.
Preschool and Early Elementary Kids
Mother Goose Picture Puzzles by Will Hillenbrand
It’s fun to see a picture and figure out the word it stands for. Some people call this kind of picture puzzle a rebus. Children will have fun guessing some of the words in twenty Mother Goose rhymes. It’s not hard! There are clues on every page in this sparkling, imaginative mixed-media artwork!
Fairy Tales & Fantasies: A Can-You-Find-It Book by Sarah L. Schuette
Show kids their favorite fairy tales and fantasies with this fun seek-and-find title. Hundreds of objects are hidden inside full-color photo puzzles of fairy-tale and fantasy characters, settings, and more. Each to-find list includes pictographs and word labels to engage pre-readers and early readers alike.
Hidden Wonders! by Walter Wick
Featuring all-new rhymes and photographs, Can You See What I See?: Hidden Wonders explores a world of toys, an enchanted ball, the farthest reaches of outer space, and more. Readers of all ages will enjoy the search-and-find adventures and amazing optical illusions.
Where is Bear? by Jody Jensen Shaffer
Mouse and Squirrel can’t find their friend, Bear. In this Level P Highlights Puzzle Reader, readers can join in the search for Bear and then find hidden letters throughout the book. The simple story text has lots of picture support that will keep readers turning the pages, while the puzzle encourages re-reading.
The Lost Picnic: a Seek and Find Book by B.B. Cronin
Grandad is taking his grandchildren on a picnic in his jalopy. They ride on a busy highway full of cars and signs, past charming villages and topiary-filled parks, out into the country. But when they finally arrive at the picnic spot, they discover all their food has tumbled out of the car along the way! It’s up to readers to find the missing food so the family can enjoy their meal at last.
Older Elementary Kids
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein
Twelve-year-old Kyle wins a coveted spot to be one of 12 children chosen to stay in the new town library–designed by his hero, the famous gamemaker Luigi Lemoncello–for an overnight of fun, food and games, but in the morning, the kids find all the doors still locked and must work together to solve secret puzzles in order to discover the hidden escape route.
Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett
When seemingly unrelated and strange events start to happen and a precious Vermeer painting disappears, eleven-year-olds Petra Andalee and Calder Pillay combine their talents to solve an international art scandal.
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trent Lee Stewart
As the only four children to pass the series of tests provided, Reynie, Kate, Sticky, and Constance are asked to go on a secret mission as undercover agents at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened and quickly realize they will have to use their collective wit to get their important task complete.
Capture the Flag by Kate Messner
When the original Star Spangled Banner is stolen, seventh-graders Anne, Josâe, and Henry, all descendants of the Silver Jaguar Society, pursue suspects on airport carts and through baggage handling tunnels while stranded at a Washington, D.C., airport during a snowstorm.
Puzzling Pictures by Anna Claybourne
A picture shows exactly how things look. Well, it does most of the time. However, our brains use lines and angles to figure out whether buildings are bigger than each other or leaning in an odd way. This book shows readers exactly how pictures can be optical illusions and why they see what they do.
York the Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby
In an alternate history of New York, three kids try to solve a modern-world puzzle and complete a treasure hunt laid into the streets and buildings of the city.
Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson
When Stevie Bell, an amateur detective, begins her first year at a famous private school in Vermont, she sets a plan to solve the cold case involving the kidnapping of the founder’s wife and daughter shortly after the school opened.
The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
When a Connecticut teenager inherits vast wealth and an eccentric estate from the richest man in Texas, she must also live with his surviving family and solve a series of puzzles to discover how she earned her inheritance.
Escape Room by Maren Stoffels; translated by Laura Watkinson
Told from multiple viewpoints, Alissa, Sky, Mint, and Miles enter an Escape Room with one hour to find clues, crack codes, and solve puzzles, but the Game Master has no intention of letting them out.
The Cipher by John C. Ford
Robert “Smiles” Smylie and his friend Ben become embroiled in a high-stakes negotiation with a pair of suspicious Feds when Ben cracks a code with the power to unlock all the Internet’s secrets.
Ready Player One: a Novel by Ernest Cline
Immersing himself in a mid-21st-century technological virtual utopia to escape an ugly real world of famine, poverty and disease, Wade Watts joins an increasingly violent effort to solve a series of puzzles by the virtual world’s super-wealthy creator, who has promised that the winner will be his heir.
Two Across: a Novel by Jeff Bartsch
When his soulmate—beautiful, brainy Vera Baxter—moves away and cuts him out of her life, Stanley Owens, whose one true love is crossword-puzzle construction, tries to atone for his mistakes and win her back—one crossword at a time. Reading-group guide available.
Romeo and/or Juliet: a Chooseable-path Adventure by Ryan North, and William Shakespeare
A choose-your-own-path adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic imagines riotous “what if” scenarios, inviting readers to explore the alternate stories of the star-crossed lovers as they fall for other partners, pursue unconventional interests and team up to take over Verona in robot suits.
Wooden Puzzles: 20 Handmade Puzzles and Brain Teasers by Brian Menold
What could be better than a woodworking project that expands your woodworking skills, results in a gallery-worthy project that will bring hours of entertainment, and could even make a dent in your pile of scrap wood? 20 of those projects compiled into one great book.
The Lost Treasure of the Templars by James Becker
When antiquarian bookseller Robin Jessop finds a medieval scroll related to the war on the Knights Templar, she and encryption expert David Mallory find themselves on a global hunt for an unsurpassed treasure and secrets that could change history.
Lights! Camera! Puzzles! a Puzzle Lady Mystery by Parnell Hall
When her ex’s sensational tell-all about their lives is optioned for a movie, Puzzle Lady Cora Felton reluctantly accepts a producer role’s in the much-despised production before a body is found on set, staged with a crossword puzzle clue.