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Jigsaw Puzzles are Making a Comeback

We’ve all been to dinner someplace and watched a family sit down together and then completely ignore one another for the entirety of the meal.  Each person spends the whole time looking at their phone or tablet and the only interaction that occurs in real time are the brief moments where someone shares a video or a picture with someone else.

In this era of impatience that is encouraged by the immediacy of information, people are quick to become impatient with one another. 

Children are given phones at increasingly younger and younger ages and they might be gaining certain problem-solving skills and general tech know-how from their phones, they are also missing out on the tactile experiences that drove learning for other generations. 

Don’t want to get your kid a dog? There’s an app that will give them a virtual dog.  Don’t want to meet new people or go outside your house?  There’s an online community you can talk to from behind a screen.

Sadly, these types of solutions might provide entertainment, but they do not tap into many of the skills and brain functions that studies have shown are necessary for good health.

Studies are showing that our youth are less and less capable of problem-solving in the real world and that they are struggling with how to react to other people in real-time. 

Parents are struggling with ways to get their kids to disengage from their devices and join the older generations in the real world and employers report increasing numbers of young people who are poorly equipped to interact with other people on a day to day basis. 

Additionally, it appears that problem solving skills are on the decline as are hands-on skills.

Thankfully, there is hope for society and a part of that hope is centered on jigsaw puzzles and the healthy benefits they can offer us.

Puzzles have been around as long as people have. The first jigsaw puzzle was made in 1767. It was cut from wood using a jigsaw, and so the name stuck.

In the 1900’s, puzzles were still a luxury item.  They were typically only owned by the wealthy and working-class people would not have been likely to have ever had one.  With the advent of cardboard puzzles, the puzzle could be marketed to everyone.

During the Great Depression, puzzles became a cost-effective means for entertainment that could be re-used.

Today, the jigsaw puzzle is enjoying a return to popularity.  Through puzzle-building, some people are rebelling against the electronics saturated reality that we are living in.  Most of us, however, are simply pleased to be benefitting from modern manufacturing which creates unique, colorful and challenging puzzles that are also affordable. 

While we are enjoying the process of assembling the puzzle, we often do not realize directly how the activity has benefitted our health and well-being.  Puzzles require the use of problem-solving skills, hand-eye coordination and strategy.  All of these skills are beneficial to prevent the decline of mental faculties and to encourage a healthier life overall.

The first generation of children who have been raised with 24/7 access to phones and other virtual media and games, have shown us some valuable lessons.  These children have been demonstrated to struggle with face to face contact, problem solving and impatience. 

While they might be learning other useful skills from online interactions and online gaming, they are missing out on the tactile portion of the learning curve that was formerly a natural part of all the skills training and experiences they would have had growing up.

Inserting puzzle building into your child’s routine can offer the tactile and social problem-solving skills that they will not experience to the same degree when playing games online or interacting on Facebook. Even teenagers can benefit from the challenge of shape recognition and cooperative learning that is part of the puzzle building process. 

Additional benefits are the spark of creativity that can be generated by the puzzle building process and the formulation of adaptable and abstract thinking methods.

Adults have reported that the return of the jigsaw puzzle is partially driven by a sense of nostalgia for days long in the past where the family would assemble around the dining room table and do a shared activity on a rainy day. 

Coming on the heels of the revival of the coloring book, puzzles have found a new place in modern adult lives to help them with mindfulness, hand-eye coordination, mathematical thinking and fine motor ability.  Tapping into these very necessary skills helps reduce the anxiety and depression that plagues many adults struggling to keep up with our modern, speedy, chaotic lives.

Puzzle-making companies have realized that a large portion of their audience are adults these days, and have responded by rebooting images that were used for puzzles from the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s.  Adults seem to respond to the nostalgic images as much as to the act of building a puzzle. 

On the kid side of things, puzzle companies are increasingly able to generate puzzles with bright colors, fun 3-D images or even holograms built into them.  To add another layer of challenge and fun, many puzzle companies also make truly 3-D puzzles, which offer puzzle builders the ability to create 3-D models of buildings and animals amongst other things.

Studies done on groups of adults working regularly on puzzles has indicated that their brain function is consistently eight to ten years younger than their biological age.  Results like this offer perhaps the most compelling reason that puzzles are making a comeback. 

In short, they offer the chance to tap into a fountain of youth of sorts.  If only the fortune hunters of old had known that they need not look for a real fountain!  It turns out that all they needed to do was sit down with their friends and work on a jigsaw puzzle together.

Night Owl Puzzles