Jigsaw puzzles – my life-long love affair

Adults doing jigsaw puzzle

Jigsaw puzzles develop skills, improve stress levels and encourage social interaction. They provide hours of entertainment and fun for adults as well as for children. Research shows that assembling a jigsaw puzzle is good for brains of all ages.

The photo shows my grandchildren, Alexander and Louise and a friend, Kirstin who called in for morning tea and spotted the puzzle on the coffee table.

John’s daughter, Susan, recently gave him a 1000-piece puzzle. I set it up quickly, delighted with the gift.

Not only was it fun, but it also helped soothe the stress while he convalesced after the emergency insertion of a pacemaker which did not go smoothly.

We received two more as Christmas gifts. We’re now on number four since the end of November. With 750-pieces, the one in progress demands as much attention and concentration as some of those of 1000-pieces because of the complexity of the design and similarity of the colours.

Our puzzles move regularly on the light, stable board John made, from dining room table to the coffee table. We often work them together, sometimes alone. Other times one of us will pop in a piece that we notice will fit as we pass by.

We also love it when visitors like my adult grandchildren (and sometimes their partners) gather around the board and work on the puzzle while we talk.

I can’t imagine why I didn’t put it on my list of Twenty fun things to do in 2020.

Why I love jigsaw puzzles

Jigsaw puzzles have been part of my life since my childhood and I’ve introduced them to my children and grandchildren and now to John.

  • I love the challenge of creating order (and a picture) from the initial pile of random pieces.
  • There’s a dopamine rush when the last piece is put in place, and a complex task is finished. There’s a minor rush, also, when a particularly elusive piece suddenly fits.
  • Assembling a jigsaw puzzle is a peaceful occupation that reduces stress.
  • It can be done satisfactorily alone or with others or in a mixture of both.
  • It’s a fitting occupation for summer and winter.
  • Many children enjoy the activity, especially when it’s shared with an adult or competent older kids.
  • Putting an age-appropriate jigsaw puzzle together creates special grandparent-grandchild bonds.

Memories

My first puzzle was a gift from Father Christmas. Made from wooden pieces, the picture showed a vase of pale blue, white and pink flowers in a deep blue vase.

At first it seemed impossibly difficult, but my parents helped me put it together. Jigsaws are recyclable. Kids can do them over and over. And I did!

Many of my grandchildren share memories of being with me on short or long visits and getting out the puzzles. One time, on a holiday in Dongara, we found a puzzle in a garage sale. We didn’t finish it, so carefully loaded it in the car and brought it home with not one piece out of place.

The frequent family and other visitors to my house in Albany on the south coast of Western Australia enjoyed the jigsaws always set up ready to go.

When they were finished, we glued them to three-ply and hung them to decorate the studio room where everyone slept, creating memories for all of us. There were nine or ten in place after my two-year stint in the town.

In one school where I went as a school nurse, the principal had set up a puzzle in the waiting room outside her office. Her secretary invited children and adult visitors to contribute by adding a piece or two while they waited for the principal.

In some aged care facilities that I visited as an advocate for residents in aged care, couples and groups of residents gathered regularly around jigsaws in the sitting room. Those places usually scored highly on all other values at accreditation!

Random facts about jigsaws

  • John Spilsbury, an engraver and mapmaker, is credited with inventing the first jigsaw puzzle in 1767.
  • Bill Gates his wife Melinda are passionate about jigsaw puzzles. You can read more here.
  • People who enjoy assembling jigsaw puzzles are called dissectologists. There is a worldwide club for lovers of jigsaw puzzles called, would you believe, the Benevolent Confraternity of Dissectologists.
  • Jigsaw puzzles come in sizes from six or eight pieces to 64,000 pieces and some are three dimensional.

People fall into two distinct groups in relationship to jigsaw puzzles. On one hand there are the addicts. On the other, people who are indifferent, or worse.

I’d love to know which camp are you in? Please leave a comment about where you fit and why.

Join the Conversation

17 Comments

  1. Oh yes Maureen, am definitely a Dissectologist Addict!! Enjoy the two states of being whilst involved in solving a puzzle: the quiet, peaceful state when looking at pieces and the puzzle and the euphoria when piece finds its home. And thank you for giving me a title – a confirmed Dissectologist!!

    1. Elizabeth, it’s a pleasure to share our interest in jigsaws! Thank you for your comment. I’m glad you understood about the euphoria when a piece finds it’s home. Take care of yourself.

  2. I love jigsaws too. I especially love paintings of great artists. One of my favourites is a Breughel’s with the tiny figures carrying out their daily mediaeval activities. I buy lots of jigsaws from op shops and return them unless (like a good book) I can’t part with them.

    1. Lovely to hear from you, Stephanie. I love Breughel as a painter, and have not yet done one of his paintings as a jigsaw. How wonderful would that be! I’ll keep my eyes open for one. Puzzles from paintings are often especially challenging, because the colours are often applied randomly rather than as they appear in a photo and I like that aspect. We seem to have friends and family who like to swap, and jigsaws make such good presents. I have also bought from garage sales and op shops.

  3. Have you tried a WASGIJ? Its fascinating as you dont get a picture of the finished jigsaw, just clues. Most of them are a picture of what the people are looking at…..you have to imagine you are behind the picture on the box.

    1. Hi, Maureen. Yes, I’ve tried a couple because my daughter-in-law is also keen on jigsaws and she lent me some.
      I found them very difficult! However, these days I mostly do jigsaws with my husband, and he prefers straight jigsaws of around 1000 to 1500 pieces.

  4. It sounds like such a peaceful and satisfying thing to do, and it’s lovely that you were able to assist John’s convalescence with activities like this.

    I’m not indifferent to jigsaws – I love helping out when someone else wants to do one with others – but I’ve never really sought these puzzles out. Might have to try some of ours again 🙂

    1. Yes, Fiona, it was a good thing to do. And we still have one going. It was especially when our young adult grandchildren called in for a few minutes and stayed for hours. Highly recommended.

    1. Maybe time to explore this pastime, Sue. Your cold weather would be as suitable as our heat which keeps us indoors.

      1. Perhaps I might set aside an area so that others might join in. I wouldn’t be able to sit for very long because my computer would be calling out to me. I’ve been hooked on computer projects ever since we purchased our first all those years ago!

        1. Sharing puzzles is absolutely the best way to go, Sue. Highly recommended. It’s a pity about computers, but my tablet also demands a lot of my attention. It’s a habit I’m keen to break, by the way.

          1. I would never give up on any of my devices. I enjoy them too much and always have a project of some sort on the go such as learning to use new software, editing videos etc. Unlike most people, I gave up on social media a long time ago. I don’t count WordPress as social media. I thrive on routines and that includes setting aside times in the day for writing. I publish twice weekly but occasionally write an extra. I never check my stats and I answer comments as and when the alerts arrive if convenient.

            I’m delighted I found WordPress and blogging, it filled a void that was desperate to be filled. I don’t think of it as a habit, it’s a way of life.

            1. I also love my computer, Sue. Unlike you, though, I think of it as ‘social media’ and my website is where I spend most time, apart from learning new information, exploring new ideas and practising writing on the computer. I agree that blogging can be a way of life, and one I enjoy although I have a few other commitments that demand lots of attention.

              Connections made through our blogs can be an important social contact. I’m surprised at how many older people are actually connected through blogs. I love it!

    1. Thank you for your comment, Michele. I think puzzles are hard for many people, but they can provide relaxation and joy, as well as being good for the brain. The really good thing is that they come at all levels of difficulty, from 6 or eight pieces to numbers that make my eyes water to think about. You can always start with smaller puzzles, say around 100, which are challenging and can also be fun, and work up.

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