Sudoku is great fun whatever your age. But when it comes to younger people, this classic logic puzzle can be a fantastic educational tool. Like all the best learning tools, sudoku works well precisely because it is so much fun to play. Kids learn best when they are enjoying themselves, and sudoku has a lot to teach — and not just about numbers. Indeed sudoku, whilst traditionally using numbers, is not a math game. But it has a whole lot to teach.
At the bottom of this page you will find some free sudoku puzzles designed specifically for kids, that you can download and print out. But first, here are seven incredible benefits of using Sudoku as a learning tool.
Right from an early age, very simple kids sudoku puzzles are an excellent way to promote and reinforce the recognition of number forms. Even the simplest 4x4 puzzles are great at this.
By turning recognition into a game, the child is not only gently encouraged to differentiate between figures, but because they must find missing numbers, they will naturally create figures in their mind’s eye. This mental creation of numbers strongly reinforces the forms.
Of course, sudoku doesn’t just have to be played with numbers. Letters can be used instead, adding more learning opportunities. We’ve included both number and letter variants in our free downloadable kids sudoku puzzles at the bottom of the page.
The aim of sudoku is to work out the missing numbers in a grid. The whole game is a puzzle that is crying out to be solved, so naturally playing it encourages and develops problem solving skills.
This can be done as gradually as necessary. A simple grid with a single missing number might seem to be so easy as to be pointless, but it’s like a gateway drug. When a child works out the missing figure, they experience a rush of excitement at having solved the problem; they are primed to solve more.
Building up the difficulty slowly and steadily maintains the challenge. The child is obliged to add a little more effort every time, and think up new ways of finding the answer — and being rewarded with the dopamine hit that comes with success.
As puzzles grow in size, complexity, or both, the child will have to find new ways to solve them. Thus what started as an easy game can soon become a fun and rewarding exercise in lateral thinking.
Larger sudoku puzzles (typically full-size 9x9 and above) are a fantastic tool for encouraging working within a group. Puzzles can be split into racks and stacks, or columns, rows, and blocks, and each piece assigned to one or more children.
With a simple grid, the kids may initially solve the puzzle by working individually on their own portion. But ramp up the difficulty even just a little, and before long they will be obliged to co-operate and communicate to ensure their solutions do not ‘collide’ with those of the others in the group.
Take the difficulty up another notch, and the team will be encouraged to work together to come to a solution for the puzzle, pooling their techniques and knowledge.
For larger groups or older kids, try using 16x16 grids, or even better, Samurai Sudoku. The latter is a ‘multi-sudoku’ game with interlocking grids — perfect for splitting up and working on as a team.
In a sudoku grid, a single mistake inevitably leads to disaster. Just one number out of place renders the entire puzzle unsolvable — not that it’s always immediately obvious!
It only takes a few failed solutions for most children to learn that they must check and double-check their answers before writing them in the grid, thus promoting careful attention to detail.
Logic is essential in solving sudoku, but so is memory. As they work through a grid, a child will be constantly putting numbers into very short-term memory, sometimes for just a few seconds at a time.
Sudoku is a great workout for the brain. Just as concentrated exercise can improve overall fitness, so working short-term memory improves overall memorisation and recall skills. Speaking of working out the brain…
Sudoku demands a level of concentration that just isn’t necessary for most other kinds of puzzles. Simple math games, crosswords, word searches and so on, can all be done piecemeal by dipping in and out as and when. But to solve a sudoku grid effectively, it’s necessary to hold a lot of information in short term memory at once.
Losing focus, or lacking concentration, leads to mistakes or quite simply not being able to find a solution. Therefore the child is obliged to put all their attention into the job in hand. Studies show that concentration is like a muscle, and that repeated training leads to long-term improvement.
If you’ve completed a sudoku puzzle then you know the rush of satisfaction that comes with putting that final number in the grid. One of the amazing things about sudoku is the range of difficulty that can be applied to a single concept. A child can learn the basics on a really easy 4x4 grid in a matter of minutes, yet be constantly challenged and stretched by the exact same set of rules right up to mind-bending super difficult 16x16 grids. Every win is an opportunity to boost their confidence and self-esteem, all whilst having lots of fun.
Now you know why sudoku is such a great learning aid, as well as being a fun game, here are some grids that we have prepared especially for children.
We’ve included three grid sizes: 4x4, 6x6, and regular 9x9. There are eight 4x4 puzzles, and twelve of each of the larger sizes (which also include letter-based variants). Full solutions are of course also included.
The pages have been formatted so they will print on both American letter paper, as well as standard A4.
For kids sudoku, we highly recommend Amelia Baker’s range of books, which we collaborated on. You can find out more about those here. Amelia’s books include excellent tutorials written specifically for younger players, and lots of puzzles from 4x4 to 9x9.