What to do? What to do? It's a puzzle. Bad weather has everybody inside. Confined kids turn into little pit vipers. When winter doldrums set in, everything is so boring. At least that's what the kids claim. But wait...there's more! Just around the corner the sick bugs lurk. So it is time to dig deep into inner resources for entertainment.
Maybe John Spillsbury was a dad with a bunch of restless kids. Born in 1767, the English cartographer supposedly created the first jigsaw puzzle. History tells us that he chopped up a wooden map of Great Britain and challenged folks to reassemble it. It is believed Spillsbury called this a dissected puzzle. Evidently the dissected puzzle caught on. Before long, jigsaw puzzles arrived in the marketplace. These puzzles were pictures painted on wood and cut into pieces using a saw called a jig saw, hence the name.
Jigsaw puzzles are not meant to be assembled in one sitting. Perhaps that accounts for the popularity during the Great Depression. This was an inexpensive and entertaining way for families to pass time. To beat the winter blahs, you might generate long-term entertainment with an ongoing puzzle. If you set up a card table in a convenient location, the puzzle is a magnet. Family members, big and small, will stop by the table to fit in a piece or two. In the twinkling of an eye, five minutes becomes 30.
Today, we can find jigsaw puzzles of every size, shape, theme and price in catalogs and in most stores. There are floor puzzles with giant pieces for toddlers. Four- and 5-year-olds can manage 100-piece puzzles. It seems the more pieces in a puzzle, the smaller the pieces are, and the more complicated the puzzle is.
How to work a puzzle varies from person to person. Some folks assemble the border first. Others believe piecing together parts of the main picture is easier. To each his own.
It is amazing how addictive jigsaw puzzles can be. According to some educators, jigsaw puzzles exercise both sides of the brain. Some believe that assembling a puzzle helps with problem solving in general. Assembling a complete image when only a portion is known takes considerable thought. Visualizing the overall picture can transition to real-life experience when only a small bit of information is known and you must a decision or choice.
Parent alert: Puzzle working encourages patience.
A jigsaw puzzle is not the only puzzle entertainment. Consider crossword puzzles, which are good vocabulary builders, and Sudoku, the popular Japanese number puzzle. The Word Search is a challenge that falls into a category of its own.
Jodi Jill became so enamored of puzzles and quizzes that she made it her career. She is now a syndicated professional puzzle maker and has developed classroom lesson plans to be used on National Puzzle Day which falls annually on Jan. 29.
So ... put up the card table, bring out the puzzles, and celebrate National Puzzle Day.
Heidi Maness Hartwiger a Wheeling native, is a writer, teacher and storyteller. She is a mother of four and a grandmother of five.