Putting It Together—With Puzzles

November 6, 2008 Updated: November 7, 2008

We know, as adults, that puzzles are great for kids—we often start them out with the super-easy wooden ones before they even start to walk. You know the ones I mean:  handles on each piece and a board where the pieces can’t possibly fit in any other spot than the right one.

As the child grows, we increase the difficulty—and the challenge—with smaller pieces, more pieces, and more complicated pictures.

We know how good they are for occupying busy little hands, how helpful they are in culminating better concentration and the cultivation of a talent for spatial relationships, as well as the not-so-obvious benefit of creating the love for a hobby—which can carry on into adulthood and even become something much, much more in later years.

Yet, we often forget about puzzles in relationship to ourselves as we encourage our children (or grandchildren) to enjoy them, as if puzzles were just for kids and not an appropriate thing for adults.

Maybe it’s because they can be put together and then taken apart again, like building blocks and other such toys. They’re really just not completely “complete” even when you’re done, are they?

Maybe it’s because we think of putting together puzzles as something unproductive—not working the body at all, not making money, not even ending up with something tangible (permanently, anyway) to show for all the effort.

Yes, I think that must be it: not worth the effort because of nothing to show for it’s when “finished.”

The truth is, however, puzzles are not just for kids, and they’re not just for retirees who have too much time on their hands.

Puzzles can be great for relieving stress, a wonderful source of quality family time, and with something called “puzzle glue,” can result in a usable, attractive tangible piece of art—something that you can actually put on the wall and say: “We did that!  Remember when we worked on that together?”

Of course, you may not want to display your finished product over the mantel, but many puzzles—especially nowadays—are made from wonderful prints of well-known artists and would look perfectly fine hung in a guest room, family room, or office space.

Puzzles are available in a variety of sizes, shapes, levels of difficulty, and there is a large selection of different pictures to choose from. Whether you’re a novice or an expert, a child or an adult, male or female, and no matter what your taste in art, there is a puzzle for you out there. And for those who are really into being challenged, don’t forget those amazing 3-D jig-saws.

Department stores usually carry some puzzles in their toy departments; hobby stores may not carry puzzles year-round, but usually have them for the Christmas/Winter holiday season. You can find a lot of unique puzzles online, as well as in specialty shops.

Puzzles are a great way to enjoy the company of a friend, spouse, or child, which encourages not only teamwork, but also allows for conversation without pressure.

Having a puzzle out for days, weeks, or even months, where it can be worked on for as little as a moment (while walking by), a few minutes (while waiting for popcorn to pop in the microwave), or a few hours (while enjoying an in-depth conversation) makes it a versatile “focal point” for the family.

My daughter and I once worked on a puzzle for several weeks; sometimes we only put in a piece or two; sometimes we sat for hours and talked about anything and everything. I think we were actually kind of sorry when we finished it—so then we went and found another one!

*Hint:  Instead of using one of those roll-up puzzle holders, find a bulletin (cork) board that is bigger than most average-sized puzzles. Put your puzzle together on it; it can be moved virtually anywhere to work on or to get it out of the way:  under the bed, on top of a dresser, a coffee table, on a dining table, etc.