It’s no secret we love puzzles. Dan has been gifting me a puzzle every holiday season since we met. It was originally a gift for the winter. But then Christmas and Hanukkah puzzle time would creep into January/February if we couldn’t finish it while enjoying December festivities. And when I was a kid I used to do 3D Puzzles galore. I’ve always loved puzzles. Our love for our home, and activities to do there while we’re not traveling, has only amplified our love for puzzles. So let’s talk everything puzzles, including useful tips and tricks for you.
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Benefits of Doing Jigsaw Puzzles
Jigsaw puzzles stimulate the brain and are wonderful for getting away from screens. They help with short-term memory by reinforcing brain cell connections and even helping form new ones. Doing puzzles today can potentially help keep Alzheimer’s away tomorrow.
And staring at computer and cell phone screens all day is no good. Dan and I work on computers all…day…long. It’s so nice to take our eyes off a harsh computer monitor and shift gears into solving problems of an entirely different, and low key, kind. Puzzles also improve problem-solving skills and attention to detail.
We don’t have the television on when we do puzzles – we simply enjoy each other’s company, perhaps an adult beverage or two, and often the sweet smell from a yummy candle. If we want “noise” on in the background we just play a little music.
Puzzles are so beneficial in pulling us away from our usual routine to something that requires our full attention and presence. And whether you do it solo and treat yourself to some alone time, or do it with your partner or family, it truly brings us into the moment to simply do the task at hand. It can even help our collaboration skills and increase patience.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could do your puzzle…and have a clean table when you’re not working on it? Be it your kitchen, living room coffee table or dining room table: we can all relate to not having whatever room we’re working on it in kept clean when a puzzle is out.
What if there were puzzle organizational tools to help you work on your puzzle while having your home in order?
We used to do puzzles just once a year but we do them year round now. These puzzle organization tools help us enjoy our puzzles and keep our home in order.
We love this sorting tray set because it has a lid on it, which just makes sense if you need to put the puzzle away for a few days for whatever reason.
If you’re like us you know the best way to do a puzzle: create the border, first, then sort the pieces by likeness of color or pattern, then do the puzzle. Or a combination of those steps in chunks of time throughout the duration of putting the puzzle together.
Puzzle trays are a godsend! They’re the perfect way to keep things logically grouped as you put together your puzzle.
Puzzle Mats and Storage for When You’re Still Working
Puzzle storage while you’re still working on the puzzle is such an essential thing to consider. This is even more true if you live in a small apartment and have limited space. We have friends who are at home, isolated, in studio apartments and need all the space they can get! But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have the option to work on puzzles.
There’s three top solutions for puzzle storage we know of that work well.
The easiest, cheapest option is a piece of foam core. (Upgraded from a piece of poster board/oak tag, of course, which is flimsy and too flexible to serve you as well as foam core.)
Pro: It’s cheap.
Con: You can’t store the puzzle vertically and if you move the board too fast the whole puzzle could go flying off.
ROLLABLE PUZZLE MAT:
This is a good and affordable option. You do your puzzle on the felt mat. Then when you want to store it you blow up the inner tube that comes with the set. Then simply roll the puzzle on the felt mat around the tube. Secure the roll with the included velcro strips and place it in the provided drawstring bag.
The mat can accommodate a puzzle up to 46″ x 26″.
Pros: It’s affordable (around $30) and something you can use over and over again. Also, the felt mat helps keep things in place more than a piece of poster board would.
Con: The main challenge with this would be moving the puzzle on the felt mat if you start to put it together in one area, then realize as the border comes together, for instance, you need to move the whole puzzle to the left or right. It’ll be fine to move in general, but you may have to pick up the pieces and move them in chunks rather than put your hands across the whole thing to slide it over.
Also, just a thought into the future: you may have to periodically check that the tube isn’t losing air, but it should affect the rolled puzzle too much since the felt mat has some structure to it. We’ve slept on an air mattress for long periods of time and it’s only natural an inflatable loses a bit of air over the course of time.
JIGSAW PUZZLE CASE:
This puzzle case the ultimate puzzle saver. It zips closed and opens to reveal your puzzle on its own textured board, to prevent slipping.
MAKE SURE you know which one you’re buying! There’s one that costs less BUT it doesn’t accommodate as large a puzzle as the one we’ve recommended here. And many puzzles geared towards adults that are 1,000 pieces or more need extra space to put them together.
Pro: It allows you to store your puzzle and easily move it from its case to wherever you want to work on the flat, sturdy felt board it’s already being built on. It can also be slipped behind a couch or between a kitchen counter and your refrigerator, for instance. It’s slim and easy to hide somewhere in when you want to put it away. It’s also easy to put in your car, even laying it flat in the trunk, if you want to transport it. The trays that come with it are great if you want to put together different parts of the puzzle and store them with the larger puzzle you’re solving.
Con: It’s a little heavy at 18 pounds, with puzzle pieces on it. It’s the most expensive of the three options as well but also the sturdiest.
Puzzles We Love
Our puzzle tradition started with Dan gifting me a Disney themed puzzle for the holidays. We’ve kept the theme alive a few years but have added other puzzle, outside Disney, to the mix year round. Usually our criteria is that it’s 500 to 1000 pieces, has color and is a design that appeals to us.
Some of our past favorites and ones we have our eyes on include:
- Colorful Popsicle Puzzle: This one took us only a few hours to complete. But the colors were so much fun to look at I’d recommend it to anyone wanting some nearly-instant puzzle gratification.
- Mickey and Minnie, Thomas Kinkaid: This was one of our holiday puzzles. Mickey and Minnie Mouse are always heart-warming.
- Gems Puzzle: Mikkel is a sucker for gemstones and even more so when they’re as colorful as this.
- Full Bloom World Map Puzzle: It combines our love of travel with flowers. Pure perfection! (This butterfly puzzle is the same concept but with different objects.) Don’t let the solid color spaces fool you – they’re probably the hardest parts of the puzzle.
- Zodiac Puzzle: This is so cool! We love that it’s round, not rectangular. It’s a great variable to throw into your usual puzzle-solving in case you’re looking for a new challenge.
- Little Puzzle Things: These are adorable and easy-to-put-together $15 novelties. We can picture them adorning the walls of a fun bar area or cool office space if individually glued together when they’re complete. (Read on for our recommendations and tips regarding puzzle glue). We are partial to the Little Puzzle Thing bowl of Tonkotsu Ramen!
Difficult and Extra Challenging 2D Options for Advanced Jigsaw Puzzle Enthusiasts
We’re just blown away by all the puzzle options out there. Here’s a few that we predict would give us a run for our money:
- Hologram puzzle: We know this puzzle would provide weeks of fun. And an interesting twist on constantly dealing with the changing colors of each piece! We imagine some of the associated cost of this puzzle is simply because it’s extra thick and has a special hologram layer on top of it.
- Gradient puzzle: This is both beautiful and an especially provocative puzzle to put together. (Because who doesn’t love a color gradient?) It’s sold in a few different gradient options, from blues to pinks to greens and grays.
- Round Rainbow Palette Puzzle: Wow. Who is up for this challenge?
When I was in middle school I was addicted to doing 3D Puzzles. Three in particular I recall completing with pride were: 1) Cinderella’s Castle from Walt Disney World, 2) the Empire State Building and 3) The White House. The Empire State Building was a doozy – nearly all the pieces looked the same and it was about three feet tall.
If you want to up your puzzle game, or literally bend your mind in a different way from two-dimensional puzzles, try three-dimensional versions.
“Wrebbit” is one of the premiere brands of 3D Puzzles. Puzz3D is also another reputable brand. Wouldn’t it be fun to create Downton Abbey or Winterfell from Game of Thrones? Or maybe you want to build a whole Harry Potter themed 3D Puzzle village. Now, that would be fun!
Other Puzzle Ideas
Puzzles go beyond the jigsaws that meet the eyes. Here’s some other useful puzzle tips and tricks to think beyond the box.
Sometimes puzzle manufacturers and distributors are a bit backed up on orders. (Achem, like with Coronavirus. It’s been great for the puzzle industry but hard on the people fulfilling the orders.)
Our friend suggested we swap puzzles to multiply our options. We were in!
Simply find a friend who wants to swap and do a drop off and pick up at his or her house. If they’re not close by, ship it. Grab a box, tape and print a prepaid label from a shipping service (like USPS, UPS or FeEx) even if you can’t get out to ship. You just have to give it to your USPS mail carrier or schedule a UPS or FedEx pickup after you get a box of puzzles ready to exchange. Voila – you’ll have new puzzles to work on within a few days.
Great tip: search the hashtag #PuzzleExchange on Twitter to find others wanting to do the same. Do an advanced search to narrow down the timeframe or location Twitter searches for Tweets from.
Print a Photo Puzzle
Be mindful of our important useful puzzle tip: Ensure you look at how many pieces the finished product is. It would be a little disappointing to think you are getting a 500+ piece puzzle created from your photo print only to discover it’s 50 pieces you can assemble in 30 minutes.
We recently discovered a company called Create Jigsaw Puzzles.com, whose sole purpose is to create jigsaw puzzles from your designs. We love that they take you through each step to create your puzzle with ease; a key step in their process is choosing how many pieces you want your puzzle to be. Whew, crisis averted.
Want to know another GENIUS offering Create Jigsaw Puzzles has? A puzzle divided: half is with larger pieces for kids to put together and half of it is smaller pieces for the adults. Yet, everyone can work on the larger picture and solving it together! So smart. We haven’t seen this anywhere else and we think the Family Large/Small Puzzle is super smart.
What should you print on your puzzle? Anything you want (that you have the rights to, of course): upload a photo, something you’ve painted and scanned, a child’s piece of artwork, a collage, etc.
Color In a Puzzle
Did you know coloring in puzzles was a thing? You have to put it together first so keep that in mind when you’re ordering 500 pieces or 1,000 piece puzzle, or another count. Black and white puzzles are sometimes the most challenging to assemble.
The best part of this kind of puzzle is that another fun craft project awaits after you put it together: Bringing your black and white puzzle to life with COLOR!
There are a variety available on Create Jigsaw Puzzles.com – scroll to the bottom of the page for more sophisticated designs. However, even some of the simpler drawings can be ordered in larger puzzle piece quantities. Some of the same designs give you the option of ordering them in 70 pieces OR 500 pieces, for example.
It’s also worth checking options on Etsy, but their listings are subject to inventory at any given time so I’m not inserting any one product here.
Nothing compares to the amazing feeling of finishing your puzzle. Dan and I always save the last piece to move into the last open spot of the puzzle together. We put our index fingers on it and click it into place. But then you have to…take it apart to pack it up. Or not!
Keep that sense of accomplishment and beauty of the puzzle in tact by keeping it in its finished state and the sum of its parts.
Glue Your Puzzle Together with Appropriate Puzzler Saver Glue
We recommend a glue that dries clear so you’ll be able to see the beautiful puzzle design when it dries.
Modge Podge is white in the bottle but, from years of experience using it, it dries clear.
Another good option is good ‘ole clear Elmer’s Glue.
A foam brush will work well for applying either choice. A soft paintbrush will work well too. But stay away from course brushes – they’ll leave brush marks/streaks in the glue on the puzzle.
Also, be on the lookout for the glue forming very tiny “bubbles” as you apply it; all you have to do to eliminate them is go over the layer with your paintbrush while you’re still applying it and it’s wet.
Frame Your Puzzle
It’s relatively easy to frame a puzzle as long as you follow two steps: be aware of the dimensions of your completed puzzle and have patience in the transfer to a frame.
The dimensions of your completed puzzle should be on the box it came in. Simply buy a frame that’s that size. You’ll want to slide the puzzle onto the back of the frame that comes out and away from the glass, then carefully press the glass on front of it. Then flip the puzzle over, so the glass is face down on a table, enabling you to secure the backing of the puzzle into the frame with the glass in place. It definitely helps to exercise patience and have an extra set of hands for this.
You can use puzzle glue first, then put the puzzle into the frame. However, we don’t recommend that as a first choice if you can do it without glue. This is simply a useful puzzle tip from experience – the glued puzzle could “stick” to the glass and not give it an evenly framed look you’re desiring because of the puzzle’s pressure against it.
Have fun creating your puzzles, exchanging with friends and saving some as hangable artwork.
Home and looking for more ideas for things to do? Also check out:
- What Top Travel Bloggers Appreciate About Home When They’re Not Traveling
- 25 Affordable Date Ideas for Couples At or Around Home during Social Distancing
- What to Do if You are Bored at Home: Ideas for Things to Do During Self Isolation and Home Quarantine