Hulking Pieces of Youth

Directions for teaching a kid to do a jigsaw puzzle: “First you sort all the pieces into two piles. Those that have straight edges and those that don’t. 7-17-08 Landon 3

Straight edges are the pieces that you can slide on it’s flat side and it will glide smoothly along the table top. Then you turn all the pieces over so the picture is facing up and the brown is facing down. Next take all the straight edges pieces and make the boarder. Usually the pieces with the same colors on them fit together. Finally, you fill in the middle.”

My mom was a big fan of jigsaw puzzles and I remember the kitchen table or counter cleared off (occasionally the living room coffee table) for puzzles. Sometimes she would work on one alone, but more often then not it became a family project and we’d all work on it a couple times a week. They were stored on a long flat piece of wood that could be slid under the couch or a bed. We didn’t do the puzzles as much as I got older, possibly because then there were more people old enough to play more sophisticated table games.

7-17-08 Landon 2Puzzles have been shown to help with spacial reasoning, focus, problem solving, color and shape sorting and figuring out how things fit together. It also teaches trial and error, patience, and how through small steps you can see the “whole picture”.

7-17-08 puzzleI bought my oldest daughter her first 24 piece puzzle when she wasn’t quite 2 years old yet. She could do 24 piece puzzles by herself by the time she was 3. Thus started the collection. Over the years the boxes started to break down. So I transferred everything over to plastic containers from Walmart. I cut the picture off the box and use boxing tape to adhere it to the lid. They stack nicely, store great and the kids can open and close then without needing help.

7-17-08 puzzlesLandon’s favorite puzzles are the 100 piece Superheros. He’s been able to do those by himself since he was four, but he prefers the companionship and teamwork of my doing them with him. Most of the time i just turn the pieces around, flip them over in my hands and put them near the place their supposed to go. If he starts chastising me for not really doing my share, I’ll pop a few into place, but I like to watch him work. It’s interesting to watch his thought process reflected in the expressions on his face or the lift and fall of his shoulders. He doesn’t get excited about finding the correct fit anymore, unless they’re the last couple pieces. Then he looks quite self satisfied. But he always credits both of us for our efforts.

7-17-08 Landon  4Vanessa (my 7 1/2 year old) is particularly fond of these puzzles. She’s quite clever and has plenty of patience. Her favorites consist of 250 or 500 piece that usually take the form of kittens, fairies, mythical unicorns or long haired ladies in flowing gowns. And if the puzzle glows in the dark when you’re done, so much the cooler.

Sommer (10) isn’t as crazy about puzzles as she was when she was younger, but I believe over the years it has helped her appreciate quiet time, satisfaction in her personal successes and keeping track of small parts to things. In all the years of collecting puzzles, (we have about 20 of them now) I think we only have puzzle with a single piece missing. Not bad for a household with three kids and a history of entertaining young friends for parties and sleepovers!

7-17-08 Landon 1My kids don’t have an X-box or anything along those lines at my house. They also very seldom get to play computer games here (they do those things at dad’s house). So I think it’s good they learn how to be entertained by activities that don’t require batteries, electricity or that feel like homework “learning opportunities”.

As if I don’t have enough things to do or addictions, I just found a website where you can put together puzzles and try to beat the average time.

The last puzzle I did with Landon today was the Incredible Hulk. It’s a brand new puzzle, so the Hulk doesn’t have a plastic container yet. He was certainly very…green. I like knowing that my children will have fond memories of doing puzzles with their mom too.