Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Puzzles for Puzzle Day or Any Day: A Review

Puzzles for Puzzle Day or Any Day: A Review
Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay 

I love puzzles. I especially love jigsaw puzzles. It satisfies me to find the exact puzzle piece to fit into the space designed for it. I'm delighted when I finally finish a puzzle -- especially if it's a large one. Are you a puzzle fan, too?

Puzzle Day is January 29

If you didn't plan ahead or don't have time to work a puzzle on January 29, why not celebrate by buying a new puzzle you love, instead. Then enjoy it on any convenient day. Or have a puzzle party with your family or invite a friend or two to help you work your new puzzle. There are many excellent reasons to spend some of your leisure time working jigsaw puzzles.

Here's What Working Puzzles Can Do for You

  • Working puzzles can help you relax. When we work puzzles, we focus on our process instead of on our problems and the things that add stress to our lives.
  • Working a puzzle offers a welcome break from electronics and media. It lets us work at a slower pace and really focus instead of having our attention constantly refocused.
  • If you live alone, working a puzzle can keep you so absorbed you may forget you are lonely. Put on your favorite music and have a party for one. It beats television.
  • Working puzzles helps keep your brain working well. It keeps both sides of your brain busy and since both sides need to work together to complete a puzzle, the connections between the right and left sides of your brain grow stronger. The left side helps you sort pieces and figure out where to put them. The more creative right side uses your intuition as you consider where pieces may fit into the big picture or the individual section you are working on. Exercising your brain with puzzles may delay the onset of dementia or slow it down. The brain also produces dopamine when it's helping you work jigsaw puzzles.
  • Working puzzles together can foster closeness in families and between friends. Working a puzzle together is a social activity that puts people together who have a common purpose – working the puzzle – for an extended time. They may start by planning how to work the puzzle, deciding who will do what, but later they will naturally move on to subjects they probably wouldn't usually have time to discuss. Contributor  Dawn Rae has also written about her experience with puzzles paving the way for quality time. 
  • When children begin working jigsaw puzzles, it helps them develop many important skills. Among these are fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, problem solving skills, color awareness, spatial relations, concentration, and working towards a goal.

Jigsaw Puzzle Strategy

Like most jigsaw fans, I have a strategy. Mine is pretty common.
  • Turn over all the pieces first so you know what you have to work with.
  • Find the pieces with straight edges and make the frame by forming and  connecting the edges.
  • Make sure everyone working on the puzzle can see the cover on the box as they work.
  • Try to complete one section of the puzzle at a time until it comes together to complete the picture.
Do you also use that strategy?

Finding the Right Puzzle

For the happiest puzzle working experience, you need to choose the right puzzle for your time, your skill level, and your interests. You will be looking at that puzzle for a long time. If you're a beginner, choose a smaller puzzle of about 200-300 pieces to develop your skills before moving on. Chose a puzzle with smaller blocks of color and many shapes instead of a puzzle with lots of sky or water that's the same color. That makes it easier to figure out which pieces fit.

I like nature. I created this puzzle from one of my photos of the sunset at Larry Moore Park. It comes in many sizes, but for a beginner I'd choose the 252-piece size. There is enough  variation in color and the tree branch shapes to make it easy to see how pieces may fit together. (Check out some of the other California places I made into puzzles.)

As you become more proficient, choose more challenging puzzles with more areas the same color or less pronounced subjects or designs. Or choose a larger puzzle of 750 pieces or more with a design you love and may want to frame afterwards. (Contributor Bev Owens reviews a great way to preserve puzzles you want to frame.) I love books and cats. This 750-piece puzzle by Buffalo Games is one I'd love to have on my wall. Buffalo Games makes quality puzzles. If you click through, you will see what makes them so special.

If you want to get your preschooler off to a good start, you can't go wrong with a Melissa and Doug puzzle. I used to sell these at homeschool conventions and there is a wooden puzzle to fit every interest and ability level. I like these sets for children 3-5 years old. Children this age love color and animals. The puzzles in the first set have both. These puzzles come packed in convenient wooden trays. But if you want something more educational, the pegged set has puzzles that teach the alphabet, numbers, and shapes. The pieces in this set have pegs to make them easy to lift out so that children can find the attractive pictures underneath each puzzle piece.

Puzzles Make Great Gifts

When you gift someone with a puzzle, consider the receiver's age, interests, and previous experience. You can even use a special photo to make a personalized puzzle at Zazzle, such as the one I made of the tree in the sunset I showed you above. Just click that puzzle. It will take you to the product page. Click “customize” on the top right of the page under “Designed for You.” It will show you many options. The first allows you to substitute your own photo. You can also add text if you wish.

Puzzles make great gifts for grandparents and older friends who live alone. It will help them keep their thinking sharp and give them something fun to do by themselves or with a friend.

Give a young child a puzzle and you will be helping to develop that child's brain. Give a puzzle with a related book for a double treat that will let the child be thinking of the book as they work the puzzle.

Maybe you should also gift your own family with a new puzzle to work together.
Whatever day it is, happy Puzzle Day.

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


  1. Oh I haven't done a jigsaw puzzle in a long time, but you are making me wish I had one right now. I do enjoy doing them when I have one at home. Have you ever done a Smuzzle Puzzle? The shapes on those are like little lizards and they are so cute, but hard as heck to do. I like all your reasons for doing puzzles too. Thanks Barbara for this review and I think I know what I will get for Valentine's Day this year.

    1. I haven't had the time or place to work a puzzle in years, but I really used to enjoy it when the kids were around and we all worked together on one. I think a Smuzzle Puzzle would be fun. I have never heard of these.

  2. My niece used to enjoy doing jigsaw puzzles when she was younger. I wonder whether she still does? I love the idea of turning your own photo into a jigsaw puzzle.

    1. My puzzle days were when I was much younger and had not had children yet or started writing in earnest or selling books. Those activities have barely left time for me to read, and I love to read. Working a puzzle might be fun to try again, though.I just need the time and a table not loaded with books.

  3. We often worked jigsaw puzzles at our house - a great wintertime activity. One year, after not working any puzzles for a long time, we became interested again after retirement, and we got out all our stored puzzles. When we finished working those, we donated them to our local thrift store and bought some more. We had a jigsaw puzzle going every day for an entire year. It was funny because we both found that it was impossible to pass by the puzzle table without stopping to work in a piece or two, which often led to an hour or two! We like the bigger puzzles (1,000 - 1500 pieces). Happy Puzzle Day!

    1. It would be nice to have room for a puzzle table. I like the idea of keeping a puzzle up to work in a piece or two whenever when passes through and has time to stop for a tiny break.

  4. As a child, I always loved puzzles. I think the appealed to that side of me the enjoys crafts and sewing. The only thing I didn't like was that they weren't permanent. Needless to say, I was thrilled to learn about puzzle glue from Beverly. Like you, I always started with the straight edges for the frame. I've never assembled a puzzle with someone else. That sounds like it would be fun and a great way to share a few hours together with, or without, conversation. I love your picture puzzle of the park and that sleeping kitty cat is adorable. You made me wish to stop everything else and relax with a puzzle. I'm staring at the dining room table which also seems to be beckoning me to sit a spell. Now that the holidays are over, it feels abandoned.

  5. WRiting this made me want to start a puzzle again, too. I've been mostly doing word puzzles on my phone and reading and writing to help keep my brain going strong. But working a jigsaw puzzle would exercise different areas of my brain which are pretty weak, such as spatial relations.

  6. We loved jigsaw "puzzling" growing up. We would set up a table in the dining room and chip away at the puzzle every time we passed through that central room in our home. Our process was the same as yours. With cats, it can be pretty challenging to keep puzzle pieces from going missing, unless you have a dedicated game room that can be closed off. You have inspired me to turn some of my photos into puzzles. Thanks for that!

    1. As I was browsing around researching this, I did see some photos of cats and puzzles coexisting peacefully because of a puzzle carrying case with features to help protect the puzzle even while on the table.

  7. After reading this, you have me thinking about getting a huge puzzle out and just leaving it for members of the family to work on at their leisure. You're so right about the benefits of doing puzzles, and it's been so long since we've completed puzzles. It's also a great way to encourage my family to get off their phones and participate in something else more family related. Seriously thinking about putting a puzzle out on our table now.


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