All You Wanted To Know About Tangram Puzzle – And How To Introduce It To Toddlers

What is A Tangram

A traditional Chinese puzzle made of a square divided into seven pieces (one parallelogram, one square and five triangles) that can be arranged to match particular designs. Arranged correctly, the shapes can be fitted together as a large square, rectangle, or triangle. They can also be arranged in a variety of complex shapes.

The relationship among the pieces enables them to fit together to form many figures and arrangements. However, the tangram is more than a seven piece square. When it comes to tangrams, the challenge is to arrange the pieces to form additional shapes. The seven pieces can be arranged to make anything form a rabbit, to the alphabet, to a person. “The tangram is the opposite of a jigsaw puzzle. Instead of fitting the pieces together in only one way, the seven tangram pieces can be arranged to make a great number of different figures” (Bohning, G., et al., 1997, p. 4).


The objective of the puzzle is to form a specific shape (given only an outline or silhouette) using all seven pieces, which may not overlap. Over 6500 different tangram problems have been created from 19th century texts alone, and the current number is ever-growing.

How To Play With Tangram?

There are many ways to play with tangrams. The simplest way is to let kids create their own complex shapes. But traditionally, tangrams are treated as puzzles. The player is shown a target shape (in outline, or silhouette only) and then asked to recreate that shape using the seven pieces. There are tons of tangram patterns on the internet, something of THIS kind.

Rules Of Tangram

  • All seven pieces must be used. 
  • All pieces must be flat. 
  • All pieces must touch. 
  • No pieces may overlap. 
  • Pieces may be rotated and/or flipped to form the desired shape. 

Why & How Is It Useful For Kids? (Starting From Toddler Stage)

It is very important that children explore with a hands-on, minds-on attack in a problem solving environment. Tangrams promote this idea through open-ended explorations. Through tangrams they are involved in manipulating and problem solving. Children are naturally curious so trying to solve a puzzle involving tangrams is going to provoke their curiousity and therefore be interesting so they will be engaged in what they are doing.

  • Tangrams can teach kids about spatial relationships. 
  • They help kids learn geometric terms and develop stronger problem solving skills. 
  • They might help children perform better in general mathematics. 
  • Tangrams help children develop mathematical concepts of fractions, spatial awareness, geometry, area, and perimeter. 
  • By using tangram shapes, children learn the relationships between shapes. 
  • Children learn that three basic shapes, the triangle, square, and parallelogram, can fit together to form many other shapes and figures. 
  • Tangrams also helps to hone spatial rotation skills 
  • Tangram helps to acquire a precise vocabulary for manipulating shapes (e.g., “flip,” “rotate”) 

How To Introduce Tangram To Toddlers

I first introduced tangram to my son when he turned 2 years (20 days back). This is the time he had started showing a lot of interest in puzzles of every kind and building blocks. So he is in a sensitive period of enjoying open-ended play & logic/reasoning based activities. After exploring the pieces for quite some time in an open ended & free play manner, he has now learnt how to make a square using all 7 pieces. 

Here is a quick video of my son making a square using tangram – 

The next step is to make different kinds of patterns using tangram. I am going to arrange the pieces myself first based on the patterns floating around the net & then take pictures of the same. Print them out & present them to my son to replicate the patterns. I know there are so many printables already but the colors of the tangram pieces might be different in different printables & I do not want to confuse my son while he is arranging the puzzle. After he has solved such puzzles, I may introduce him to making the patterns by watching the just the outline/silhoutte. But this requires a lot more skill, so lets see when he is ready for it.

Where To Buy Tangram From

There are so many varieties of tangrams available in the market today, ranging from wooden to cardboard to magnetic one. Listing some of them below. I personally got it from a closed facebook group Ionica’s Toys.

Source – wikipedia, parenting science, Jody Andrea Blog

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