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I Learned A Crazy Life Lesson Watching My 2-Year-Old Play With Puzzles

flickr / Mike Liu

The following was syndicated from Medium for The Fatherly Forum, a community of parents and influencers with insights about work, family, and life. If you’d like to join the Forum, drop us a line at

Last night I spent a great deal of time doing puzzles with my son Lennox. This was something relatively new to both of us. The puzzles were there in the toy room, but he had never really shown any interest or paid much attention to them besides the ones with various animals — he liked to take whichever he liked best at the time and carry it around with him, or just chew it.

We began with the vehicle puzzle. It is much easier and he was really digging the boats. I helped him learn the different vehicles shapes and their names, repeating them verbally and placing them in the right spots and taking them out again. Over and over, for a solid 20 minutes. Once he basically mastered it and was able to do it flawlessly a few times in a row, he decided that he was up for the next challenge. Shapes.

At this point I was quite impressed with how he stuck with this task for so long. Lennox tends to jump around from toy to toy, activity to activity, as most 2-year-olds do. So puzzle proficiency aside … I was already impressed.

Now, onto the shapes. It took a little longer to get the hang of them since there are some similarities both in color and in shape. But using the same protocol of taking the shapes out after naming them and their color — the name obviously was not important, as a 2-year-old more than likely cannot grasp what an octagon actually is, but I felt we might as well mention them — he was able to figure it out.

The extra challenge was instinctual to him. He wanted to make it harder.

After another 30 minutes of repetition it seemed like Lennox was now bored and had grasped the concept of both the puzzles to a degree he was comfortable. Play time was over I thought.

Not so much. What happened next baffled me.

Thinking we were finished with the puzzles, I went to stand up. Then, to my amazement, Lennox dumped both puzzles, scrambled the pieces all together, laid both boards in front of him and began doing both puzzles simultaneously.

My first thought was “Holy f–k. Really?” This was, of course, inner dialogue. My second thought was, “How did he think to do that? he can barely form a sentence” and maybe more importantly, “why the hell don’t adults challenge themselves in such a way?”

Most people that I have direct contact with more than likely would have stopped after mastering the second puzzle. There is something in us as we grow older that leads us to learn just enough of something or do just enough of something to be relatively proficient in it. Rarely do we take it a step further and voluntarily challenge ourselves to be great at something.

We can learn a lot about ourselves and life by just observing.

Lennox was pulling from his pile completely blind, assessing the piece and putting it right into its correct spot almost flawlessly after just a few minutes. The extra challenge was instinctual to him. He wanted to make it harder. He wanted to do it differently, and even better than before. I was in complete awe. This could be a valuable life lesson.

Whatever your puzzle may be in life, don’t give up on your first successful completion. Grab another one. Learn and do it to the best of your abilities then go ahead and scramble the pieces.

Kids do some pretty amazing things if you pay attention and think about their actions on a bit of a deeper level. We can learn a lot about ourselves and life by just observing. If you have one or more of your own, sit back, watch and think. There is plenty of information to be learned at any given time.

Chris Downie is a father of 2 boys, an OCR athlete and a personal trainer from Ontario, Canada. Check him out on instagram and medium.