I am often asked by parents of academically gifted children some ways to encourage, enrich, and play with their children. One easy way I have always recommended parents is the use of puzzles. They are a classic toy that has been used for thousands of years and there is a reason. I think they offer a fun way to teach many skills to children. Puzzles are also a toy the kids will always pull out (and easy for us to take on trips) and do it over and over.
I found a few articles about the benefits of puzzles. I think it is worth while for academically gifted parents to appreciate all the skills they do provide.
On a side note- there are lots of companies that make puzzles. Our favorite is Melissa and Doug because they are durable and some are made in big floor size puzzles. One of our Melissa and Doug puzzles also incorporates pictures to find when you are all done. I believe there is a farm animal one like this: