These days it’s tempting to focus on flashy toys when we’re out purchasing items for our children. Kids seem to be naturally drawn to anything with screens, buttons, and sound effects – and there’s nothing wrong with any of that. However, there are still plenty of traditional, slower paced toys out there, and it might surprise you just how much enjoyment your kids will get out of them. Traditional games and activities such as jigsaws might appear old-fashioned these days, but they still provide a lot of fun and have benefits you might not have considered.
I introduced jigsaws to my son almost as soon as he could hold the pieces. We began with big, chunky wooden puzzles with only two or three pieces each, and he soon learned how to fit the shapes together to complete the picture, or to place the pieces in the correct shape on the tray. Today, he has graduated to jigsaws of 100 to 250 pieces by himself and also helps me out when I work on larger puzzles.
Finding the right jigsaw is crucial if you want to encourage your kids to play with them. Many of us have a mental image of jigsaws based on those dusty boxes we see stacked up in thrift stores. Schmaltzy, insipid pictures or “challenging” images like a 1000 piece jigsaw of baked beans, and while these puzzles have their fans, they won’t be encouraging most of us to pick them up. Ravensburger’s “My” range of jigsaws and toys can help with this by allowing you to customize your very own jigsaws, paint by numbers sets, and memory games with your own pictures. While design-your-own jigsaws certainly aren’t new, their quality has always been lacking. Ravensburger, however, brings over 100 years of experience to the concept, and their custom puzzles are every bit as high quality as their off-the-shelf offerings.
My mother is a jigsaw fanatic so when Ravensburger offered us a custom 500-piece jigsaw, I decided to make one for her, celebrating an arts cafe she regularly visited but which had recently been forced to close. Making the puzzle was easy, although the information about what size image I needed to upload could have been clearer. You can upload any picture provided you own the copyright or have permission to use the image (the owners of the cafe gave me permission to use some pictures they had taken), however, I would recommend using images with lots of detail and color – especially for larger jigsaws. I thought I had kept the black areas in my image to a minimum, but they were still very difficult in the finished item! GeekDad Will also received a Ravensburger My Jigsaw in time for Father’s Day, and you can read his opinions of the puzzle over on GeekDad.
The finished Ravensburger My Puzzle came in a metal tin, although boxes are available at a slightly cheaper cost. The puzzles sizes start at 49 pieces and the largest currently available are 2000-piece. There are also some other options including a 72-piece framed puzzle, a 500-piece heart shaped puzzle, and some official Disney frames for your pictures including Frozen and Planes Fire and Rescue. You also get to name the puzzle, and the name will come printed on the box, just like a store-bought jigsaw. The pieces and the printing were both great quality with very vibrant colors. My son loved helping me work on our puzzle, particularly finding parts of his granny’s coat or hair, and between the two of us, we had it completed in a matter of hours.
If custom jigsaws aren’t your thing, then the huge variety of jigsaws on the market should make it easy to find something that will appeal to your family. Of course, there are thousands of licensed products covering everything from Star Wars to My Little Pony to Harry Potter and Peppa Pig, but you don’t necessarily have to go down this route. A look through the latest Gibsons Games catalog revealed two jigsaws that caught the eye of my son, one called “Steep Hill” which shows a well-known street in my husband’s hometown that we have climbed many times, and another called “Trooping the Colour” that shows the Red Arrows (the UK’s version of the US Air Force Thunderbirds and US Navy Blue Angels) flying over London. Gibsons kindly supplied us with both, a 1000-piece version of “Steep Hill” and a 500-piece version of “Trooping the Colour” in a beautiful gift box.
While, admittedly, my son didn’t hang around for the full three days it took to complete the 1000 piece “Steep Hill” puzzle, I frequently found him loitering in the dining room trying to add in a few more pieces. For a kid who seems to be surgically attached to his tablet when he’s not trying to talk me into more Playstation time, that’s nothing short of incredible.
Jigsaws are extremely beneficial – and not just to kids. They help develop motor skills through handling and turning the pieces and also help to keep those same skills going for older folks who can often begin losing them as they age. They have enormous cognitive benefits from looking at the pieces and trying to fit them together, and they also benefit emotional skills. There is no fast-forward button on a jigsaw and no skip scene option to jump to the end. It takes time, and patience to complete a jigsaw puzzle, and that forced slow-down is great for all of us, whether YouTube obsessed tween or stressed, deadline-riddled adult. They may not be the flashiest, most thrilling of toys, but there’s a reason jigsaws have remained popular and if you haven’t done one in a while, I highly recommend picking up the pieces once again.
GeekMom received these jigsaws for review purposes.