In our world of electronic gadgetry, the old-fashioned jigsaw puzzle gets short shrift. It’s not sexy or exciting, some think, so it can’t possibly be any fun. But jigsaw puzzles are a great source of entertainment. As you pass the jigsaw puzzles in the toy department on the way to the more glamorous Legos, Leap Pads, iPads, and console games, here are some reasons why you should stop and take a longer look at the puzzles.
- They’re cheap. Jigsaw puzzles are cheaper than many other toys and entertainment choices. You can find a 1,000 piece puzzle for less than $5 in some stores. You can find boxes with multiple puzzles included for under $10. And the price only goes down if you buy on clearance or from a thrift store or yard sale.
- Puzzles are for all ages and ability levels. You can find jigsaw puzzles with big pieces that work well for little kids or those with dexterity problems. There are puzzles that contain many thousands of pieces if you need a challenge (I’ve seen one with 32,000 pieces) or puzzles that are all one color if you want to make yourself crazy. And there are plenty that are middle of the road. Whatever your ability, age, or amount of free time, you can find a puzzle that will work for you.
- Bang for the buck. A puzzle can provide quite a few hours of entertainment. Given the inexpensive cost, you get a lot of entertainment time for your dollar.
- They’re good for your brain. Puzzles are an excellent activity for keeping your brain sharp. They challenge your dexterity, spatial reasoning, and logic. Even better, they work both sides of your brain simultaneously, something few other activities do. The creative side works to see the finished product, while the logical side works to fit the pieces.
- They’re a social activity. While a puzzle taxes your brain, it’s not so demanding that you can’t talk with your friends or family while working on it. Some of the best conversations in this house happen over puzzles.
- They require no electricity. You don’t need electricity to work on a puzzle (at least during the daytime), unlike video games or movies. This means they don’t add to your power bill and you can use them during snowstorms or hurricanes when the power is out. It gives you something to do when other options aren’t available.
- They improve your concentration. Nothing teaches you to focus on a task like finding the right piece to go into the puzzle. You also learn patience because it can be quite a while before the puzzle starts to come together. You have to keep plugging away at it until it does.
- They give your subconscious a chance to work on other things. Working a puzzle allows your mind to rest and think about other things. Whenever something big is bothering me or I need to find a solution to a problem, I pull out a puzzle. I’ve come up with some of my best ideas and solutions while puzzling.
- They’re pretty. If you glue a finished puzzle together and mount it, you’ve got some interesting artwork for your house or apartment. Puzzle glue and a frame or mounting board are inexpensive.
- They can be educational. I’ve learned about art and geography from puzzles. Puzzles of famous paintings and places have inspired me to look for more information.
- They can help with arthritis. Puzzles provide a gentle and enjoyable way for patients to improve dexterity and exercise their hands. Moving pieces, picking them up, and turning them doesn’t seem like much to someone with normal dexterity, but to an arthritis sufferer it can be a meaningful challenge.
- They’re relaxing. It’s hard to be stressed out when you’re puzzling. You may start out stressed, but most of the time the zen-like motion, repetition, and concentration required for a puzzle becomes a bit like meditation. They don’t beep at you, tell you your score isn’t high enough, or overload you with advertising and talking heads. Puzzles simply are.
- They can keep you young. The brain boosting aspects combined with relaxation, socialization (if you work your puzzles with others), and physical dexterity improvement can all combine to keep you young as you age. An age reducer for just a few dollars and it’s not loaded with chemicals? Yes, please.
The next time you’re looking for some entertainment on a budget, don’t just skip past the jigsaw puzzle aisle. Puzzles are cheap and they give you a lot of benefits for very little money. You can’t say that about many forms of entertainment. Making these even more budget friendly, chances are you have a few neglected puzzles in your closet right now.
(Photo courtesy of CavanOR)