How Jigsaw Puzzles can be a great lockdown companion for children

Did you know that Jigsaw puzzles go way back to the 1760s? Brought into existence by John Spilsbury, a London mapmaker, jigsaw puzzles started their lives known as Dissected Maps. He pasted a map onto a thin wood and then cut it up into different counters, and sold them off to the affluent class of England as a hands-on way to teach their children geography. In time, the jigsaw puzzles have evolved into themes depicting stories, sceneries, and buildings, and transforming from an educational tool into a fun activity that is affordable, endlessly entertaining, and can be recycled continuously. 

Interestingly, Jigsaw puzzles were a source of great comfort and entertainment during the Great Depression of the 1930s, just as they have emerged now, during this horrific Pandemic when our collective anxiety is at an all-time high. 

What makes them the perfect lockdown – home-isolation companion is that they can be undertaken both individually and in a group, and offer us a sense of control in a world thrown into chaos. 

  • Staying connected: Families have used Jigsaw puzzles to actively connect with one another while keeping themselves and their children safely indoors. 
  • Finding comfort: Individuals living away from their homes and unable to return due to the pandemic have also found solace through Jigsaw puzzles.
  • Stress busters: Jigsaw puzzles are proven stress busters. Working on a puzzle individually or in a group can offer the much needed space to calm the mind, immediately bringing comfort even as we grapple with the effects of the pandemic.  

Benefits of Jigsaw Puzzles

Apart from being a solution to stressful times, Jigsaw puzzles help develop children’s cognitive, memory and spatial skills.

  • Impact on Spatial Perception skills: Each piece of the puzzle needs to be placed within the context of the theme as a whole instead of being force-fit anywhere. This is especially true when there are pieces with minute differences in colour or size. Well-developed spatial perception skills will also help children’s brains understand and process what their eyes see. 
  • Impact on Short term memory: Jigsaw puzzles offer a great opportunity to hone one’s short term memory; for instance, a quick recall of the location of a particular piece that can be inserted into the puzzle. Such a spatial working memory will prove handy as they grow older and need to have and use information pertaining to specific tasks. 

Jigsaw Puzzles to Develop Life Skills

  • Focus: Children of varying age groups learn how to stay focused until they finish piecing the image together. 
  • Completion: Along with focus comes the determination to finish what they start. Jigsaw puzzles hold a unique appeal that prevents one from leaving it half done. 
  • Perseverance: Children feel a sense of accomplishment when the final picture emerges and develop perseverance and motivation to tackle more challenging puzzles! 

Appropriate jigsaw puzzle for children as per age 

Factors to consider when choosing a jigsaw puzzle include the number of pieces, shapes, and sizes. More to the point is keeping the skill level and age of the child in mind. 

4 – 7-year-olds move from inset puzzles with knobs to interlocking pieces of different sizes and complexity. At 4, children can work with puzzles with around fifty pieces, such as the Melissa & Doug Safari puzzle. 

At the early elementary school level, they can work on jigsaw puzzles with about 180 pieces that are irregular and of varying shapes and sizes. Examples include images of the ocean, outer space, animals in their habitats. 

7 – 10-year-olds can start with puzzles containing 200 pieces. Children are more articulate in expressing their interests, and Jigsaw puzzles can reflect their interests. They can have hidden images that will emerge after they finish the puzzle or 3D wooden puzzles. 

10-12-year-olds can handle irregularly shaped puzzles with more than 250 pieces having images of seascapes, landscapes, or abstract themes. They may feel equally challenged with fewer pieces of a single object when they have to complete it within a specific time. 

Whether the jigsaw puzzle involves hundreds of pieces or thousands, according to studies, there is supposed to be a dopamine hit every time you put puzzle pieces together. So get assembling for a constant dose of happy chemicals for you and your child.

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