Picure of an inset puzzle with all the pieces removed. The text reads "my favourite hack to use with inset puzzles".

My Favourite Hack to use with Inset Puzzles in Early Intervention

I love using inset puzzles in my Early Intervention sessions. They’re perfect for little hands, and you can encourage so much language with them!  In this post I’m sharing all about the little “hack” I always use that never fails to encourage even more language when I use inset puzzles in my Early Intervention sessions.

Why use inset puzzles in Early Intervention?

You can use inset puzzles to encourage a range of early language and communication skills in your Early Intervention sessions.

Inset puzzles can be used to support skills such as turn taking, joint attention, requesting, object naming, making choices, and more.

Picture of a stack of inset puzzles. The text reads- Inset puzzles can be used to support skills such as turn taking, joint attention, requesting, object naming, making choices, and more.

Language strategies to use when playing with inset puzzles

There are so many different early language strategies you can use while playing with inset puzzles in your Speech Therapy sessions.  You can coach parents and caregivers to use these strategies at home with their child too!

A few language facilitation strategies you can use with inset puzzles include:

  • Creative Stupidity- (aka Sabotage or making Playful or Purposeful Mistakes)- This is where you make silly, intentional “mistakes” while playing and encourage the child to respond and correct you. For example, put the puzzle pieces in the wrong places, and act surprised when you’re corrected.
  • Reducing Questions- This strategy focuses on making comments rather than asking questions about the task/activity. For example, instead of “what have you got?”, try “you have the dog”. Instead of “where is the tree?”, try “I see the tree” (and point to it). Instead of “what’s that?”, try “you have a cat”, or “it’s a blue ball”.
  • Verbal Routines- When the child is putting puzzle pieces in, if it isn’t fitting in easily, you could say “turn it round to make it fit” each time.  At the end of the activity, say goodbye to the puzzle pieces one by one as you put them away.  Discover more ideas and learn how and why to use verbal routines to encourage early language skills.

Love using inset puzzles in your Early Intervention sessions too? – Check out the Early Intervention Handbook for more ideas for early language strategies to use with puzzles (there are examples for 24 different language strategies, plus play ideas to use in your sessions!).

My favourite hack when using inset puzzles in Early Intervention

Picture of all the pieces from an inset puzzle scattered around, next to the puzzle board. The text reads "instead of this..."

When you have all the pieces from the inset puzzle within the child’s reach, there are fewer opportunities for communication, because the child can reach all the pieces without help… not ideal, right?

Well, with this simple change, you can create more opportunities for communicating and requestingwhich is what we want, right??

OK- so, next time you use an inset puzzle in your Early Intervention session, put the puzzle pieces inside a bag.

Yep. That simple change makes a huge difference to your sessions.

Picture of an inset puzzle- all the pieces are stored in a bag. The text reads "try this".

When you put the inset puzzle pieces inside a bag, it becomes a communication temptation, which helps to encourage language skills. With all the pieces inside a bag, the child cannot easily access them, so you are creating more reasons and opportunities for the child to communicate and interact

Since all the pieces are inside the bag, and you have control over the bag and the pieces, you can…

  • Offer a choice of two pieces when you take them out of the bag. The child can respond by pointing, reaching, taking, or using words. Give the child the piece they chose and put the other one back in the bag.
  • Hold the bag, then pause and wait expectantly.  This then gives the child an opportunity to initiate an interaction and make a request for another puzzle pieces.
  • Act all excited when you open the bag to encourage and facilitate joint attention.
  • Take out once piece and pause and wait expectantly, to see if the child names it spontaneously.

There you have it!  My favourite, tried-and-tested “hack” that I always use when playing with inset puzzles.  I hope you’ve found it helpful!  I would love to know, have you used this litle “hack” when playing with inset puzzles in your Early Intervention sessions before?  Will you use it from now on?  Let me know in the comments.