Why You Need to Use Puzzles in Your Homeschool
Did you know….
- doing jigsaw puzzles uses both the right and left side of your brain? working on jigsaw puzzles uses both the right and left sides of your brain?
- improves your short-term memory?
- improves fine motor skills?
- develops spatial reasoning (an important skill for math)?
- can boost your IQ?
- increasing concentration and productivity?
If that isn’t enough to convince you to add puzzles into your homeschool routine, they also promote working together and cooperative play. Putting puzzles together in a group promotes conversation and is a chance to build memories together. In our home, we do one thousand-piece puzzle every Thanksgiving and Christmas. I set the puzzle out in the morning and we put it together while chatting, sipping coffee, and just hanging out. Different family members wander in and out and by the end of the day, we have a completed puzzle. Now that my children are older, as we work on a new puzzle together I hear them saying things like, “remember the year we did the puzzle with the cereal boxes?” It is clear that our time together working on puzzles is ingrained in their minds.
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How to Do Puzzles as a Family…Without Losing Your Mind
1. Have a dedicated space for doing puzzles
My number one tip for including puzzles in your learning is to have a dedicated puzzle space. For some reason, my husband doesn’t like it when we have puzzles (or LEGO bricks, or laundry) on the dining room table for days on end. He has this unrealistic expectation that the table should be clear so we can use it for eating.
After doing a whole lot of research I ended up buying this puzzle board. At first I balked at the price, but in the month we’ve had it, we have used it for puzzles, board games, and putting together LEGO sets.
2. Buy quality puzzles
This is important. Nothing will make your family lose interest in a puzzle more than having a horrible puzzle experience. A few years ago I purchased a puzzle called “Knitter’s Delight”. It was our typical 1000-piece puzzle and the image was a basket full of beautifully colored and textured yarns. I set it up with enthusiasm on Thanksgiving morning only to find the puzzle was…horrible. The pieces were difficult to fit together, the shapes were all unusual and of different sizes, and. worst of all, the fit just wasn’t quite right and even after putting pieces together, we were never quite sure if it was correct or not. The puzzle sat in our living room for nearly a week before I swept it into the garbage. Normally, we do puzzles and then pass them along to another family. In this case, I felt like it was my civic duty to relieve the world of a horrible puzzle that led to frustration and impure thoughts…
I have our very favorite puzzles listed futher down, but in my opinion you can’t go wrong with White Mountain or Mudpuppy puzzles.
3. Have a good puzzle storage system
It might be surprising, but storing your puzzles vertically can help cut down on the mess. I was worried about this method when I first heard of it, but it turns out that as long as your box is sturdy, the puzzles (or board games) will line up just fine.
Why store your puzzles and games verticially? Because this way you can grab the puzzle you want without having to pull one out from the middle of a stack.
Another great way to store smaller puzzles is in pencil pouches or reusable zip bags. You can cut out the picture from the front of the box (many puzzles also come with a paper copy of the image) and store it in the pouch. you can fit several of these in a basket or bin.
Tips to Get Your Kids Excited About Doing Puzzles
Tip 3: Puzzles make a great “quiet” activity.
One great way to get your children excited about doing puzzles is to have puzzles available during times when they need to be quiet. Forget the fidget toys, how about having a puzzle out during read-aloud time? Have a jigsaw puzzle set up so you can work on it while watching a movie. Do you read the Bible out loud to your kids and find them getting restless? How about letting them work on a puzzle while they listen. Another great time to introduce puzzles is after dinner while everyone is still gathered around the table.
Tip 1: Find puzzles they are excited about
There are puzzles out there for everything. Find a puzzles that your kids can get excited about. Apollo loves sloths, so you can imagine his delight when friends gave him this puzzle featuring a sloth eating noodles.
Tip 2: Find puzzles that are challenging but not frustrating
The point of puzzles is to be challenging, so the key is finding one that is a challenge, but not frustration-inducing. Our family enjoys 1000 piece puzzles. They usually take all day to build and we enjoy the sense of accomplishment when we are done. It may take a few different tries to find the perfect fit for your family.
Our Family’s Favorite Jigsaw Puzzles
Looking at this list you will quickly see we have two favorite puzzle brands, Mudpuppy and White Mountain. After my horrible “Knitter’s Delight” experience, I have become very picky about what puzzles I choose for our family.
Mudpuppy Your World (1000 pieces)
Mudpuppy Ocean Life (1000 pieces)
Periodic Table Jigsaw Puzzle (1000 pieces)
Mudpuppy Tree Dwelling Slowpokes (500 pieces)
White Mountain Cereal Box Puzzle (1000 pieces)
Does your family enjoy puzzles?
You might also enjoy my post about our family’s favorite board games