It's amazing how we often approach the same matter differently because of the way we are all wired differently! This goes the same for our children!
Give a puzzle to one child and they'll approach it's construction by starting with the four outer corners, then filling in the borders and finally fitting in everything else in the middle! (Structured)
Another child will just start randomly, by picking any peice and then fitting in consequent ones according to their shapes and grooves! (Talk about trial and error!)
Another child, will use the full picture as a guideline for bringing the whole story together! (Working with the end result in mind)
And, I've realized that my own daughter uses the colours and details on the puzzle pieces to bring about her story together!
The natural approach to solving a puzzle will be different for each child and there really is no wrong or right way. But there are certain guidelines you can follow to get your child started or to improve their approach...
1) Firstly you need to get the right puzzle! If it's either too easy or too hard for your child, your child will lose interest very quickly and not benefit from the activity.
From about toddler age (1 year and older) you can start your child on toys that they can start stacking or that fit into each other. From there you can then move on to 1-piece puzzles, then 2-piece, 4-piece, 8-piece, 12piece and so forth. Go at the pace of your child but be consistent so that their progress is not slowed down by your inconsistency. You will know when they are ready to upgrade to the next level because of the speed and ease at which they carry out the activity!
2) Choose the right time and space for puzzle making! You aren't gonna get much done if the TV is blaring out loud, the baby is crying, your child is too tired, etc. The environment needs to be conducive for concentration
2) It helps to start with the end picture in mind when constructing a puzzle...or any goal in life really! So, have your child look at the full picture at beginning, especially if the puzzle is new. It's no harm for them to even refer to the picture from time to time as they are building the puzzle, in the initial stages of getting acquainted with the puzzle. But you want them to eventually move on to building the puzzle from memory and not by always referring to the picture
3) As mentioned earlier, you can help your child to identify the four outer corners of the puzzle, then all the border ones, so they can have the basic outline in place before filling in the rest of the detail. This should just be a guideline though because as they become more confident at the activity, they will probably discover their own unique approach.
These are a few practical tips that may be helpful in getting your child developed in the habit of puzzle making! Initially your involvement will be necessary but once they have mastered the art, yours will be just to purchase the appropriate puzzle and ensure it's getting done. Im sure there are other helpful nuggets that you know about or have experienced with your own kids- DO SHARE!