Our kids love to do puzzles. They come by it naturally. My MIL and her Mom love to do puzzles- the harder the better. They love those ones that are all dice and Dalmatians, all the same butterflies repeated overlapping onto one another or just a single color. I even found them one that had uneven edges and was the same on the front and the back, but rotated at 90 degrees on the back. My great uncle loved for us to buy four different puzzles (1000 pieces or more), remove the pieces from the boxes, mix them all together in a large container and send the container (no boxes) to him for Christmas or his birthday. It was such a treat for him. (The idea of that still boggles my mind. Love you, Uncle Benny!)
On that note, doing puzzles can be a simple task or an incredibly difficult, albeit satisfying long-term event. Working together as a family or assisting your children in doing puzzles is a terrific way to spend time together. Puzzles are a great thing to do when it is too hot, too rainy, too cold or too stormy to play outside. Plus, puzzles are great for exercising your brain.
Here are a couple of thoughts for you:
- If you have super little ones, begin with chunky wooden peg puzzles or knob puzzles for little hands. I like those that have the picture printed in the spaces. Work up to those that do not have the picture printed in the spaces. Working with peg and knob puzzles is a great way to work on finger dexterity, pincer grasp, eye-hand coordination, thinking skills and problem-solving.
- If you toddlers or preschoolers, try floor puzzles. These typically have large pieces and are 25 pieces or fewer. Melissa and Doug have some great choices. These puzzles are great for working together, sharing, eye-hand coordination, practicing organizational or sequential skills and taking turns. Many puzzles also offer the opportunity for education via naming the objects, items or people pictured on the puzzle. My 2-year-old loves to do his construction site puzzle and then name all the different construction equipment. His little 2-year-old voice saying big words like “construction site”, “bulldozer” and “back hoe” makes me smile every time. Plus, there is a huge sense of accomplishment when the puzzle is finished and he can say, “I did it!”
- Elementary aged kids may enjoy moving to puzzles with more pieces and more complicated patterns. There are puzzles of the 50 states, world geography, Presidents of the US, animals, bugs, birds, and so much more. Or, if your kids have a love of horses, dogs, cats, cars, etc., you can choose puzzles by theme. Puzzles create opportunities for learning and working together to accomplish goals as an individual, pair or a group.
- Middle and high school aged kids may want to try out 3D puzzles and puzzles with many more pieces. Those who are most adept may want to do puzzles without looking at the box for guidance OR doing the same puzzles upside down so there is no picture to guide them.
- For an even bigger challenge, check out round puzzles, those that do not have smooth edges and those that are printed the same on front and back (reversed or at 90 degrees different). Mix two or more puzzles together. Or, create your own puzzles using kits available from craft stores.
If you are doing more complicated, time-intensive puzzles, you may want to consider your puzzle’s location. Little hands tend to steal pieces and lose them. They can also undo all your progress with one swipe across the table. Putting your puzzle in a separate room with a close-able door might be a good option. However, using a puzzle mat, you might be able to spread your puzzle out on the dining room table or a card table in the living or family room so it draws the interest of anyone walking by. It is easy put in a piece or two and move on to another task or spend all day working the puzzle!
There are puzzles available for all abilities and interests. Look for them at thrift stores, garage sales, toy stores and specialty stores. (Doing puzzles with missing pieces presents another kind of challenge.) You can invest very little money by trading with other puzzle enthusiasts or shopping at garage sales and thrift stores or spend lots of money purchasing puzzles that will last for generations to come.
Make memories with your family. Spend some time with your kids doing puzzles. Interaction and family bonding time, plus a sense of accomplishing something together as a family are all positives. Happy puzzling!