From word games, brain teasers, and logic problems to riddles, pattern play, and mazes, puzzles have delighted problem solvers for millennia. As old as the practice of puzzle play may be, solving puzzles offers great, informal practice in essential 21st century skills, like creative problem solving and critical reasoning. By spending time solving puzzles like these, you and your girl can have tons of fun, all while casually upping your brainy game.

Word puzzle

Chalk a Block

A word puzzle from Puzzle Palooza

Begin by making a grid with 16 squares arranged in four rows of four squares. Place the words in the word list so that every word in each list fits both across and down, like this:

Now give these a try:


Puzzle with Purpose: Puzzles like these give your girl’s brain practice in arrangement—making things make sense through organization, sequencing, and order (central to literacy, computation, and coding). Completing the puzzle using the process of elimination will give your girl’s deductive reasoning skills a great workout, too!

Nanea Picture Puzzle

Nanea Picture Puzzle

One of many digital puzzles you can find on Play!

Can you and your girl unscramble Nanea’s picture? This is a great game to play together: challenge each other to see who can solve the puzzle in the least amount of time (or in the fewest number of moves/clicks!).

Puzzle with Purpose: Sliding puzzles pack all kinds of goodness into such a seemingly simple game! When your girl does puzzles like these, she gets to practice visual and spatial reasoning—which researchers argue is central to the kinds of analytical thinking we need for strong literacy, math, science, and engineering skills (just to name a few). Measuring time and number of moves gives your girl practice in thinking strategically, too.

Table Tennis Tourney

Table Tennis Tourney

A logic puzzle from Brain Benders

Emma, Donovan, Lux, and Caldie made it to the final four in the singles table tennis tournament. Find the winner.

  • Lux never plays Caldie.
  • Donovan and Caldie each play only one game.
  • Emma loses only once.

Puzzle with Purpose: Classic logic puzzles like these rely on both inductive and deductive reasoning skills, close reading, and the ability to synthesize information. They invite players to think about facts and details in multiple different ways, which often prompts puzzle-solvers to work through the clues and steps again and again—all beneficial skills to practice and incredibly useful habits of mind.

I did it!

The Puzzle Payoff

No matter the puzzle, puzzle play involves focus, patience, and perseverance. It can be both rewarding and satisfying to solve a tricky puzzle, which encourages self-motivated learning. Research suggests that puzzles can help players learn ways to cope with stress and anxiety—beneficial to both well-being and clear thinking. And while puzzles may not always explicitly teach logic, organization, methods of reasoning, literacy, and other skills, they absolutely offer fun, accessible, informal practice in developing and using these skills—skills that are central to mental agility, creativity, innovation, scientific inquiry, critical thinking, and problem solving.

Not bad for something that is, at its heart, a whole lot of fun—so play on!

For more great puzzle games, visit Play at and check out Puzzle Palooza and Brain Benders from American Girl.

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