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Fun & learn: Let's talk jigsaw

August 04, 2013

DO you have some spare time on your hands and don’t know what to do? Then let me tell you about jigsaw puzzles. Not only are they great boredom busters, they are also educational as encourage the use of your brain cells and ensure hours of fun for everyone.

Jigsaw puzzles are so fascinating that once you get your hands on them, you will find yourself immersed in a world that is composed of tiny, colourful pieces waiting to be put together.

Jigsaw puzzles require you to assemble a picture that has been mounted on a stiff base and cut into interlocking pieces. The best thing about jigsaw puzzles is that they can be solved over and over again without losing much of their challenging nature. Also, in case of a large puzzle, the entire family can sit together to fit the pieces and have a fabulous time.

Teaching geography

The history of jigsaw puzzles is not that old. The puzzle owes its existence to an English cartographer, John Spilsbury, who made the very first jigsaw puzzle in 1767. He chopped up a hand-painted, wooden map and challenged the public to reassemble it. The puzzle was a map of England and Wales, with each county making up a separate piece. He called it a “dissected puzzle,” and it became popular as an educational tool in schools for teaching geography.

Later, people began making pictorial jigsaw puzzles. Their purpose was to have fun rather than to teach. The pieces in these early puzzles were not interlocking. Then in 1880, an American named Milton Bradley made the first jigsaw puzzle named “The Smashed up Locomotive” for children. Soon jigsaw puzzles became quite a rage all over America. Initially, they were made of wood and were quite expensive, but later the cardboard version were introduced that made these puzzles accessible to everyone.

Piecing them together

No one can deny that there’s a certain thrill involved in finding a piece that fits perfectly with another piece and interlocking them to complete the picture. Solving jigsaw puzzles can be hard but it can also lift your spirits and keep you from getting bored. You can make puzzle solving more challenging by not looking at the picture on the box while working on the puzzle.

How big a puzzle you choose is of course up to you… and your dad’s pocket. For little children, puzzles consisting of 12-40 pieces made up of sturdy cardboard pieces are quite enough. For avid solvers or those who like a bit of a challenge, jigsaw puzzles are available from 1500 pieces to almost 25000 pieces! There are now stunning 3D puzzles available with intricate details and curved pieces that can help you make three-dimensional pyramids, castles, windmills, landmark buildings, locomotives, etc.

Jigsaw puzzles promote hand-eye coordination and cognitive skills which enhance your reasoning and perception abilities. This is because you work out certain patterns in the cut and the picture to get the pieces in the correct positions. They also help develop abilities like patience, focus, concentration, dexterity and imagination.

Caring for the puzzles

Cheap jigsaw puzzles are readily available in the markets but they are usually of very poor quality and not much fun to assemble. It is best to buy good quality jigsaw puzzles with sturdy pieces that do not bend or peel off easily. Storing jigsaw puzzles require rather special care as even one missing piece can spoil the whole puzzle. The assembled picture looks very odd if there are gaps in it and the fun of solving a puzzle is no more there.

Retain the boxes in which they are sold or buy plastic storage boxes for your collection. Assemble the puzzle on a flat surface like a table and always count your pieces before you put them away. Wet spills can spoil the colour and shape of the cardboard pieces making them look dirty and smudged.

Once you have completed your puzzle, you can dismantle it for future use. Some enthusiasts assemble huge jigsaw puzzles, gluing the pieces as they go along and then use the resulting picture for room decoration. Having a wall completely covered with jigsaw puzzle pieces could serve as a pretty cool decoration, don’t you think?

Play online

There are many excellent sites that let you solve jigsaw puzzles online for free. With thousands of beautiful pictures, puzzle cuts and different levels of difficulty, these websites ensure hours of fun for children of every age.

It can be quite addictive to solve jigsaw puzzles online. For some, online puzzles might not be as satisfying as the real thing. On the other hand, you can compare your dexterity and skill against other players and race against time to solve them.

Fun facts

According to Alzheimer Society of Canada, doing jigsaw puzzles can help keep the brain active and may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, or dementia in older people.

The world’s largest jigsaw puzzle recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records comprises 32,256 total pieces. The finished puzzle measures 17 feet by six feet and weighs around 42 pounds.

In early 1933, during the Great Depression in USA, jigsaw puzzle sales reached an astounding 10 million per week.

The most expensive jigsaw puzzle available in the world is ‘Knight at Stavely Castle’, which is a complex, five-layered, 750-piece masterpiece depicting a knight, a castle, a dragon and a sword buried in a stone. It carries a price tag of $8,995.

Completing jigsaw puzzles is Queen Elizabeth’s favourite pastime. It is reported that she has borrowed some 3500 wooden puzzles from the British Jigsaw Puzzle Library, a library that has been lending its members jigsaw puzzles since 1933.

You too can enjoy putting together jigsaw puzzles with your friends, cousins and siblings, regardless of their age, with your grandparents to make them feel young and special and even with your parents. Believe me, no one is too old, too young or too busy when it comes to solving jigsaw puzzles!

Jigsaw puzzle websites

Some of the best sites are,,, and All these websites have some really cool features and stunning pictures. Some allow you to upload your own images and create your own puzzles.