Solution to a Puzzling Problem

I love that my kids love puzzles. It’s an activity they can do alone or together, inside on a rainy day or outside on the deck. It helps them hone their spatial reasoning and math skills and keeps them quiet for hours (BIG BONUS)!

What I don’t like about puzzles is figuring out which of the 32 puzzles we own is missing the lost piece I just found under the sofa cushions. One of my least favorite memories is when my 3-year-old son dumped out all 12 of the Twelve Days of Christmas puzzles out into a big heap in the middle of the living room floor. It took me all day to put those puzzles together in order to know which pieces went with which. (Thank goodness there are only twelve days of Christmas!)

I used to give them puzzle pieces as an incentive for good behavior. I’d buy a 50 to 100-piece puzzle from the dollar store, empty the box and place all the pieces in a zip-lock bag. I’d wrap the lid in plain paper so that they couldn’t see the picture on the box and then cut a slit in the box bottom so that it looked like a piggy bank. Each day, they could earn puzzle pieces as a reward for picking up their toys or making their beds. It usually took about 1-2 weeks for them to earn all the pieces, and they really looked forward to unwrapping the lid to see what the picture was.

Obviously, this meant we had a lot of puzzle pieces floating around to get mixed up with each other. To solve this dilemma, I started assigning a unique number to each puzzle. Then I’d write the puzzle number on the back of each piece that went to that puzzle so that if we found a stray, we’d immediately know which box it went in. I know what you’re thinking: it takes too long to number all those pieces! Au contraire… numbering a 100-piece puzzle only takes about 5-10 minutes max. Hopefully the kids will learn to be more careful with the pieces once they graduate to 1000- or 3000-piece puzzles! J

Party Idea: If you DO have an unfortunate multiple puzzle spill before you get them numbered, invite the neighborhood kids over for a puzzle-a-thon to get them all put back in the right boxes. The possibilities of a puzzle-themed party are as endless as the pieces themselves! But that’s another post.

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2 thoughts on “Solution to a Puzzling Problem

  1. Or one could, after a puzzle is completed, carefully flip it over in sections, push them back together and using a magic marker or water color set make a unique pattern on the whole backside…squiggles, stripes, polkadots etc. Or use a stamp and stamp pad. Fun? Yay!

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