There are myriad things that children do and we as adults rarely continue. Doodling, playing with blocks, going down the slide, the list goes on and on. However, there are a few activities that seem to get more popular as we age, and puzzling is definitely in that category. When you are young puzzles are a mainstay of child development. As children migrate from the little puzzles with cutouts for the pieces to fit into, to 24 and then 48 piece puzzles they develop all sorts of interesting skills in the process, as well as have fun focusing on the task at hand.
However, what seems to happen is that kids get busy with soccer, piano and whatever other activities they are involved and you don’t see too many kids playing with puzzles by the time they are in their later years of elementary school. Aside from interest or time, we have no clue why this is, but, here are 5 ideas that may get your kids back hooked on doing puzzles. More specifically wood puzzles.
1) “These are not your kid puzzles!”
Show your kids that these puzzles are very different than the cardboard ones they are used to. Explain how they are made (there are a number of great videos online of wood puzzle cutters demonstrating their art!) and show them the whimsical pieces online, or if you own some even better. Some more popular brands include Par, Stave, Pastime and Liberty (which are cut with lasers). Basically get them excited at the prospect of an entirely different kind of puzzle.
2) Make it easy for them!
For younger children (and most adults) wood puzzles, especially larger ones, can be very intimidating. By getting them started on puzzles early, the fear factor may be averted. One way to do this for the little kids is to have them help you after 90%+ is already solved. Let them find places where there is one piece left in an enclosed grouping of pieces. They will feel a sense of accomplishment and see that even these complicated puzzles are “doable”.
3) Have them sort colors or shapes
If your kids are too young to help, have them start doing the puzzle with you by sorting colors and shapes. For slightly older children you could have them do small parts of the puzzle and help them get setup on that so they don’t feel overwhelmed. For example, say you have a Charles Wysocki image (who doesn’t like a Wysocki?) You can find all the pieces of a certain color house or building that go together. If there are silhouette pieces, maybe you can find the pieces that go in them and have them do a mini-puzzle of the 6-7 odd shaped pieces that usually fit in them. Be creative, but basically get them engaged.
While many wood puzzlers prefer not to use a picture when solving their puzzles, we have found it takes about twice as long to do a puzzle without a picture. This could be extremely frustrating for a child if they don’t know what the end goal is. So go ahead and print out a picture of the puzzle, especially for younger children, to show them what the puzzle looks like. (We won’t tell!)
While not revolutionary, hopefully these 4 tips will give you some ways to get younger children involved in this age old pastime. Help spread the fun of puzzling!