Of all the toys we can think of, there are none that connect so universally to the human experience as puzzles. The desire to create order out of chaos is something that connects us as a species, no matter whether you are 2 years old or 102 years old.
For kids, the best puzzles not only provide steady entertainment, but also provide important developmental benefits like memory improvement, concentration, and dexterity. The ones made by Melissa & Doug not only offer all of those things, but they manage to do it in a unique and sustainable way that other toy companies might want to start paying attention to.
We’ve compiled a rundown of the 18 best Melissa & Doug Wooden Puzzles, just in time for the holiday season. After the reviews, we’re going to dive a little deeper into the world of wooden puzzles before revealing our favorite puzzles of the year.
Box Of Dinosaur Jigsaw Puzzles
The latest in Melissa & Doug’s popular and convenient boxed puzzle series is this 4-pack of dinosaurs, including triceratops, stegosaurus, brontosaurus, and the vicious t-rex. Seeing as how every kid seems to go through a dinosaur phase, this is a great puzzle to keep around the house and pass down to the younger kids as they arrive. What we like most is obviously the slide-in style box, which makes storage particularly and stylish. The sturdy wooden pieces mean that they aren’t likely to snap or fold anytime soon, something that regular puzzles sometimes have a hard time with.
Building Site Puzzle
One of the best things about these mid-sized Melissa & Doug jigsaw puzzles is that they come with their own wooden holding tray, which not only keeps everything in place while the puzzle is coming together, but also provides a neat way to display the finished product that you child is going to feel so proud of. It also allows kids to complete the puzzle on their lap, which opens up a lot of opportunity for road puzzling! The subject of this particular puzzle is big construction trucks and the site that they are working on, the perfect gift for the gear-headed boy or girl.
Farm Animal Peg Puzzle
Not sure what a ‘Peg Puzzle’ is? In essence, it is a much more simple type of puzzle that has little click-in slots for where the pieces are supposed to go, and those slots have the same image printed on them as well. The idea here is to create a puzzling experience for kids as young as two, teaching such things as basic color and pattern recognition as well as fine motor skills and coordination. If you think that your kid might be a little too young for a ‘real’ jigsaw puzzle, then a peg puzzle is the ideal answer, and Melissa & Doug are no doubt the folks that you want to get it from.
Farm Animals Sound Puzzle
This Melissa & Doug Peg Puzzle has a little bit of a trick up its sleeve. Not only does it feature friendly-looking barn animals that need to be placed in their corresponding spot, but each animal comes with a per-recorded sound that is played when their corresponding button is pressed. The challenge is that the sounds cannot be made unless the piece is in the right spot, which is going to push your child to solve the puzzle as quickly as possible. We have to admit that these are some of the cutest farm animals we’ve seen!
Farm Chunky Puzzle
This farm-theme chunky puzzle will be a particular delight for the infant or young toddler who might have a hard time gripping things. These big and bulky blocks are not only super durable, but they are easy to throw around on the puzzle board and push into place. The other big benefit of the size is that these pieces can stand up on their own, allowing them to be used as toys of their own that can go off and explore the play room with the rest of the toys. As usual with this kind of peg puzzle, there are corresponding pictures to act as visual clues to help your child reach the finish line.
First Shapes Jumbo Knob Puzzle
Sometimes, “keeping it simple” is the best way to go about things, especially when it comes to early childhood education. If your kid is as young as 12 months old, then there is no way they will be ready to experience the joys of a peg puzzle much less a real jigsaw puzzle. For these youngsters, something even more simplistic and easy to understand is necessary. The First Shapes Jumbo Knob Puzzle offers some basic education about the primary shapes, and each piece is clearly labeled with the shape name. Each piece has a corresponding slot on the wooden baseboard, making the whole process remarkably easy.
Giant Fire Truck
Your kid’s imagination is often a lot larger than life, so why not invest in a few toys that live up to the awesomeness? This giant-sized wooden puzzle from Melissa & Doug is the best way to give your kid a fun and engaging challenge that is as cool looking as it is fun to complete. Ideal for children between the ages of 3 and 6, these large-shaped pieces make puzzle-making fun and easy, which will build your child’s confidence and encourage them to undertake challenges both in the play room and in life. The size of the pieces make them really easy to clean, which is a good thing if you have more than one kid in the house.
Mermaid Fantasea Jigsaw
There is no kingdom quite as magical as the one that exists under the sea, which is perhaps one reason why so many kids like to set their make-believe adventures there. This neat wooden puzzle from Melissa & Doug features a whole host of adorable under-the-sea characters (like mermaids) that are just waiting to make your child smile, that is, if they can solve the puzzle and reassemble the image. The 48 pieces in total are designed to snap together within the included wooden frame, providing a secure place to get the puzzling done. It also makes a pretty nice display board, if your kid decided they wanted to glue the pieces in place.
Peg Puzzle 3-Pack
We’ve already gone on record talking about how much we love peg puzzles for their ability to engage even younger toddlers and kids (as young as 1½ in some cases). Now, it is possible to get a 3 pack off these wonderful toddler-focused puzzles for one low price. Not only is this one of the greatest deals on our list but it also happens to offer some great educational material. The first puzzle will walk your kids through the alphabet, while the second will take care of the basic numerical figures. The third puzzle has ten different silly fishes on it, and all three puzzles are linked by bright colors. This means that your kid will always be practicing more than one skill with peg puzzles.
Pet Themed Jigsaw Set
There is nothing quite as beloved to a child as their pets, and whether you have a cat, dog, fish, or bird, what better way to celebrate your child’s love for their furry (or feathery) companion than this collection of four different mini-jigsaw puzzles. Each puzzle is made from sustainably harvested wood and features a bright, vivid colored printing of 4 different animals. Even cooler, these puzzles are able to slide into a collectible storage box when they’re complete, also made of wood, so you can count on having these for a long, long time.
Safari Chunky Puzzle
The reason that we like Melissa & Doug’s line of “chunky” puzzles so much is because the puzzle pieces are thick enough to stand up on their own, meaning that it is possible to use them as action figurines for whatever game your kid wants to play. Or, they can try to complete the cool puzzle, which features images of the animals in the places that the pieces are supposed to go, making this a good, engaging challenge for younger kids and toddlers who might not be ready for a jigsaw puzzle. Did we mention that these cute animals are totally ready to make friends with your kid?
See & Spell Learning Toy
After all these years, we didn’t think that it was possible for someone to come up with a new way to teach the alphabet to children. And yet here we are, writing a review about one of the coolest early-childhood educational toys that we have yet to come across. The See & Spell learning toy has two components: the boards, and the letters. Each board features a different, easy word (like fish, pig, or bus) that is carved out of the wood’s surface. Then, there is a box of wooden letters that fit into the letter slots, making the kid spell out the word as they also search for the correct shape.
Under The Sea Wooden Jigsaw
The awesome magic of the under-the-sea world has always been a popular place for a child’s imagination to wander and roam. With these kind of underwater animal companions, who can blame them? This is another wonderfully made puzzle by Melissa & Doug that features their patented wooden puzzle board, something that makes storage and transport an absolute breeze, not to mention making possible the completion of puzzles on a child’s lap, like during a cross-country car ride. Like all the other Melissa & Doug products on our list, this puzzle is totally covered by their 100% satisfaction guarantee, though we doubt you are going to have anything bad to say about it!
United States Floor Puzzle
They say that it is never too early to start teaching your kid geography. Well, that’s what we say anyway. This oversized jumbo jigsaw from the toy-makers at Melissa & Doug is a great way to introduce your kid to the true size, majesty, and uniqueness of the United States of America. These big pieces are easy to handle, easy to clean, and really satisfying to snap together. And because it is designed to be put together on the floor, the whole activity is that much more exciting and engaging. Alaska and Hawaii might not be in the right places geographically speaking, but we are going to give M & D a pass on this one.
Vehicles Jigsaw Box Set
Melissa & Doug has a way of making everything just a little bit cooler than it needs to be, and the case in point is their series of boxed mini-puzzles. These slide ‘n store puzzles come with their own storage and carrying box, made from the same high-quality sustainable wood product that the puzzles themselves are. This particular puzzle set features the images for four different vehicles, all of which are kid classics. From the big firetruck to the school bus, right on down to the chugging locomotive and the hot speedster race car, there is a little something for boys and girls alike in these remarkably charming images.
Vehicles Peg Puzzle
This ultra-charming Vehicles-themes peg puzzle is the perfect way to introduce your infant or toddler to the joy of puzzling, while also giving them a glimpse into the bright and colorful world of wonderful Melissa & Doug wooden products. With eight different vehicles including a fire truck, a helicopter, a police car, and more, this is a great way for a toddler to spend an afternoon and will provide not only a mental challenge, but also that satisfaction of having completed a puzzle that will have them coming back for more. It also is going to give them a good head start on their visual perception skills!
Farm Cube Puzzle
This is the first wooden puzzle by Melissa & Doug that we have seen that takes advantage of the third dimension, offering up cube-shaped puzzle pieces that fit neatly into a small wooden baseboard. Each side of the cube features part of a different image, meaning that in all there are 6 different puzzles that are available with this set. A pig, sheep, cow, chicken, duck, and horse are all available for puzzling action, though we don’t doubt that your kid is going to have a heck of a lot of fun coming up with some silly combinations of their own.
Busy Barnyard Floor Puzzle
This is another one of Melissa & Doug’s larger-than-life wooden jigsaw puzzles that is designed to be put together on the floor, which is where all of the best play time takes place. The oversized pieces means that even younger kids (as young as 3!) can still participate in the exciting challenging of putting everything together. In the end, your kid will have a calming, softly-painted picture of a barn and it’s lovely animals. This original artwork isn’t going to be found anywhere else, so feel free to frame it and put it up on the playroom wall!
Primer: Why Wooden Toys Are Better Than Plastic Toys
The Toy Company Melissa & Doug are known for their wood-crafted toys, but we think it is possible that not everyone appreciates just how cool that fact is.
Wooden toys are not just stylish, they are also better for the environment. Because wood can be sustainably grown and harvested in the right conditions, it can be a much better option for the planet than oil-based plastics and the toys that are made from them.
Wood is also a 100% natural material, meaning that there are no synthetic substances or chemicals present in the material to make your kid sick. Even the coloring and paint used with Melissa & Doug products is non-toxic, allowing for a safe experience even if the piece spends too much time in the kiddo’s mouth!
The third benefit of wooden toys is that they are way more sturdy and long-lasting than plastic toys. Investing in wood-crafted toys is a good way to make sure that you aren’t going to have to replace them anytime soon.
The Definitive Melissa & Doug Puzzle Buying Guide
Anyone who has spent any amount of time on our site knows how we feel about the creative wood-based toys that come from the folks over at Melissa & Doug. Founded by parents who were frustrated by the lack of safe, non-toxic, wholesome toys, the company quickly developed a reputation for making some of the best toys around. The company’s decision to focus on wood-crafted toys was a good one, as it has likely directly led to their popularity in the marketplace.
Now, let’s talk puzzles. Though Melissa & Doug make a whole bunch of different wooden toys, you would still be surprised by the amount of different puzzle-based toys that they release year after year. This is most likely because puzzles are popular, simply put. Kids love puzzles because their brains are being challenged, and this is a stimulating feeling for the developing mind.
Parents love puzzles because they not-so-secretly hope that their kid might grow up to be a doctor, cure cancer, and buy them a beach house (we’re with you). But the science is actually pretty clear on this one. According to research, jigsaw-type puzzles are able to improve short term memory and increase problem solving skills, even in adults.
So we’re agreed that puzzles are awesome. Now comes the challenge of picking one out for your own kid. In a continuing effort to have your back, so to speak, we’ve compiled a few notes on what to look for when shopping for a wooden puzzle. And because we couldn’t help it, we also included a few recommendations of our own further down.
The Different Types Of Wooden Puzzles
Puzzles can be split into a few distinct categories, each with their own specific benefits and drawbacks. Most of it comes down to the age recommendation, but there are a few other things to look at. Here are the different types of puzzles that appear on our list, along with a brief description of what makes them superior and/or inferior to the others.
Anyone who has a two year old might know what a peg puzzle is, but just in case there are any confused faces out there, we’ll take a moment to describe them. Simply put, peg puzzles are wooden puzzles designed specifically for a much younger child, from 1 & ½ to 2 years old depending on who you talk to. These pretty & simplistic puzzles feature little click-in slots where the pieces need to go, and because the slots have corresponding shapes and/or colors, it is easy for infants and toddlers to solve. This not only builds confidence, but also provides valuable entertainment for an age group that can be hard to shop for.
The other great thing about peg puzzles is that the pieces kind of click in, which means that they aren’t going to go tumbling all over the floor if they are bumped into. This makes them really easy to store even without a box, and it also means that you don’t really need a table or flat surface to complete them … the kid’s lap will do!
Melissa & Doug has a wonderful selection of puzzles that are designed to be assembled and enjoyed on the floor, where all the best fun-times are usually had in childhood. With patterns like Barnyard Animals and a map of the Unites States, these jumbo puzzles provide a unique kind of fun that is easy to assemble, easy to clean, and easy to store.
Floor puzzles are great for infants and toddlers who are just learning to move around, as it requires much more movement and repositioning than the smaller puzzles do. Depending on how fast your kid works, a floor puzzle could prove to be a real workout!
Traditional jigsaw puzzles are nothing new, and in fact have been around for quite some time. You know the drill: you get a box of anywhere from 50 to 5000 little cardboard pieces and you go to work trying to solve the puzzle and reassemble the image.
The biggest problem with these traditional puzzles is that they are too challenging for young kids to enjoy. Because Melissa & Doug generally focuses on toys that are directed at 2 year olds to 6 year olds, their puzzles tend to be a lot easier to solve, utilizing larger pieces and more simplistic imagery.
Make no mistake, though. If you think that your kid solved the puzzle just a little too quickly, then the chances are that he or she is ready for something more complicated in nature.
The Melissa & Doug 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
We would be remiss to write an entire review guide about Melissa & Doug toys without mentioning their 100% Happiness Guarantee, which is hands-down the most generous and valuable return offer out of any of the major toy brands operating today.
It is pretty simple: every toy and product made my Melissa & Doug is 100% guaranteed to make your kid happy. If it doesn’t, then you are encouraged to send the product back for a full refund, no questions asked. This is a big indicator of how confident this company is in their product, and we can only assume that the person handling their returns department is playing a lot of solitaire on company hours (i.e., he isn’t that busy).
Frequently Asked Questions (F.A.Q.)
Q: How many pieces would you recommend for a toddler who is 2 years old?
A: It is not just the amount of pieces in the puzzle that determines the recommended age, but also the type of puzzle and the relative simplicity of the image. For a kid who is 2 year old, we highly recommend starting with a peg puzzle. These are specifically designed for the young child, and are much easier to complete than their jigsaw counterparts.
Q: Is Melissa & Doug one of those super-expensive “fancy” toy brands?
A: Because most of their products are made from sustainable wood, it can be easy to assume that Melissa & Doug is one of those higher-tier toy brands that is just out to make some extra dollars on parents with extra cash to spare. In reality, Melissa & Doug products are not that much more expensive than their plastic and/or cardboard counterparts.
In addition, when you factor in the relative strength and longevity of wood compared to cardboard, you are getting a much better value over time.
Puzzle Solved: The Best Melissa & Doug Puzzle Of The Year
Depending on the age of the child that you are shopping for, we have a few different picks for the top Melissa & Doug Puzzle of the Year.
The first wooden masterpiece that we want to call attention to is the See & Spell Learning Toy. This moderately priced wooden puzzle manages to teach shapes, colors, and letters all at the same time, and without being too intimidating even for a younger audience.
However, the younger toddlers and infants (between 1 and 2 years of age) are going to want something a bit more remedial, but with the same level of excitement. To this end we are proud to recommend the First Shapes Jumbo Knob Puzzle, which is totally safe for infants and engaging for those as young as 12 months.