Puzzles for Children

Sunday, February 1, 2004
  • by Helene Hovanac
Random House Parent and Child Puzzles, Volume 1

Although it's fashionable to blame mothers for our assorted hang-ups, I can only thank mine for leading me down the path of passionate puzzling, for it was she who unknowingly started me on my way to my puzzle career.

To encourage my mental stimulation, my mother would buy puzzle magazines for me. There were pictures to color, mazes to wander through, and, most important, word puzzles to solve. I devoured every puzzle magazine I got. And when I finished one, I'd ask for another. I'm sure I owned every single puzzle magazine available when I was a child. I never forgot how thrilled I was to discover that I had found the right answer to a puzzle in a book or magazine.

So, when I switched careers from teaching to puzzling, I searched out the children's puzzle magazines and books that were then on the market. I was disappointed to find that children's puzzle books fell into two categories: they were so easy that there was no challenge for the child; or they were so difficult that children could not possibly solve them without adult help. I vowed that I'd write books that children could solve and enjoy by themselves.

I'm happy to say that I've succeeded in that goal. I've written 37 children's puzzle books. I'm proudest of two of my books, Riddled With Puzzles and Punchline Puzzles. In these books, each puzzle page starts out with a riddle. To find the answer, the child has to solve a puzzle. This combination seems to be irresistible because each book sold more than 350,000 copies.

Thanks Helene!

*Puzzles for Children was written by Helene Hovanec for the World Puzzle Championship newsletter in 1999. Later, it was reprinted in an online magazine called Brain Games Bulletin. Hovanec, a leading and successful writer of puzzle books for children, is also one of the organizers behind the scenes of the World Puzzle Championship and runs her own puzzles for kids website. We'd like to thank Helene for granting us permission to reproduce it here.

I've also produced a slide show about puzzles that I've taken around to schools. First, I explain and show pictures of different types of puzzles - crosswords, word searches, fill-ins, anagrams, mazes, rebuses, etc. Then the children solve puzzles (as a group) that I flash on to the screen. Finally, we have some competitive games. I always leave a little puzzle brochure for each child to take home.

I know that puzzle solving can be a lifetime activity. It's good to start children on this hobby when they're eager to master their world by learning new skills. What better way to make them feel proud of their abilities than by teaching them how to solve puzzles!

Puzzle Books for Children by Helene Hovanec

Random House Parent and Child Puzzles, Vol. 1 by Helene Hovanec, Paperback, published by Times Books, 1995

“This is a clever collection of 44 pairs of puzzles designed for parent and child to solve together. Each puzzle can be worked separately--one is written at an adult's level and the other a child's level--but the two come together to form a larger puzzle. Perhaps it's a riddle and answer, or two sets of words that must be combined to form a third set. It's a great way to spend time with your kids and introduce them to the entertaining and mind-sharpening world of word games.” (

Random House Parent and Child Puzzles, Vol. 2 by Helene Hovanec, Paperback, published by Times Books, 1996

“Hovanec follows up her wonderful first volume of parent and child puzzles with another witty collection of 44 puzzle pairs for parent and child to work simultaneously. Like the first volume, each puzzle can be worked separately, but together, the two form a larger puzzle for the pair to solve. Sometimes it's a riddle and answer, or perhaps two different codes that produce the same answer. It's something parents and kids can enjoy together. You don't even have to tell the kids it's educational--they'll just think its fun” (