With the holiday season coming up fast, I’ll be sharing some art-related gift ideas you might not have thought of! These gifts will encourage creative problem solving, divergent thinking, and all kinds of skills that are necessary for art and life! This is part one in a series of posts for creative gift giving. Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss discovering a perfect gift!
Gift Idea #1… Jigsaw Puzzles
When it comes to gift-giving, a thoughtfully chosen jigsaw puzzle could potentially be a perfect gift. A jigsaw puzzle can strengthen a child’s (or family’s) art abilities without using any art supplies at all!
Is anyone else obsessed with jigsaw puzzles these days? I’ve always been a fan, but as we’re spending more time at home lately, my family’s passion for puzzles has grown to a whole new level. What used to happen only during summer break now has a full-time place at our table – literally!
The artistic benefits of puzzles
It may surprise you to learn how many benefits jigsaw puzzles provide. Assembling a jigsaw puzzle is actually great practice for learning to “see like an artist“. These puzzles train us to notice lines and shapes – both in the picture itself as well as in the shapes of the individual pieces. Puzzles help us observe patterns, positive and negative shapes, and nuances in color.
Focus and concentration are essential skills that puzzles can strengthen… essential not only for making art, but also for school, work, or anything you want to do well. Problem-solving, inventing strategies, and testing and trying multiple options (to find where a piece “fits”) are more skills that puzzles can help us build.
Puzzles can also give us practice with collaboration. Because puzzles are FUN it’s easy to invite others to join us… to help a little or a lot. Puzzles draw us into themselves in such a natural way that our brains just intuitively start doing all of these things without much conscious effort on our part.
And since it’s so easy to get “lost” in a puzzle, it can provide a much-needed break from the stress of the day. The benefit of using puzzles as “therapy” should not be overlooked!
Some good puzzle options
My personal favorites are the puzzles from eeBoo Puzzles, designed by artists I follow on Instagram, like Jennifer Orkin Lewis (@augustwren), Monika Forsberg (@monika_forsberg), and Carolyn Gavin (@carolynj). The pieces are thick and sturdy with a glossy finish and super clear details. These puzzles are a feast of color when finished, but the individual pieces are like little works of art all on their own!
I also love the vintage-style puzzles by Cavallini Papers. Their puzzles involve more educational themes like plants, trees, geography, maps, and space, but with a retro, hand-painted look. One of these puzzles could be a fun, hands-on extension to a topic being studied in school.
Of course, you can’t go wrong with puzzles made from reproductions of famous paintings. It’s fun to pick one up in a museum gift shop after visiting an art exhibit, but you can also find them online… just search for the artist or painting you’re interested in. Assembling a famous reproduction provides opportunities for discussing the artist, the medium he or she used, the time period, or the art movement associated with it.
Puzzles for younger kids (age 2 and up) abound! They offer similar benefits to those gained by older kids and adults, along with patience and a healthy alternative to screen time. Eye/hand coordination is another benefit for the younger set, just make sure the pieces are not too small if they’re still putting things in their mouths!
Some quality brands to consider for these younger kids are Melissa & Doug, Quokka, DreamPark, Think2Master, and of course Ravensburger. Wooden puzzles with sturdy pieces to be built inside a frame are good things to look for in puzzles for preschoolers.
My favorite puzzle hacks
Puzzles in progress do take up space! So we figured out some hacks to keep our puzzles out where it’s easy to work on them, but quick and easy to put away when we need to.
First, we use a 30″ x 30″ stretched canvas as a base for our puzzle. (If you build it directly on a table you can’t move it!) I had already toned this canvas with a coat of yellow ochre acrylic paint (intending to do a painting on it) and this has made a beautiful background color for every puzzle we’ve done on it. This gives you an easy-to-move surface that’s a few inches bigger than your puzzle in every direction. You’ll also have a staging area on each side, which is super helpful, too.
Then, we put some self-adhesive felt pads on the bottom corners of the stretched canvas to prevent it from scratching our dining table, where we like to work on it.
Finally, I ordered some 14″ plastic plant saucers to store the pieces in while we work on it. I purchased two sets of three saucers (6 total) – perfect for the 1,000 piece puzzles we like to do. The saucers can be spread out when there’s room to do that or stacked when there’s not. This way we can organize similar colors together and then stack them as they’re emptied.
While we stumbled upon most of these hacks accidentally, this has really turned out to be a fabulous system!
When you finish a puzzle…
When you finish your next puzzle, try swapping with another puzzle-loving family. Or better yet, get a group of puzzle enthusiasts together for swapping and you may be able to keep the new puzzles flowing in for quite a while.
To sum it all up, puzzles make wonderful gifts for any occasion, or just for a fun alternative to screen time. With the internet and all the puzzle options available at your fingertips, it’s easy to find a puzzle to match nearly any interest and level of ability.
(Affiliate links were used in this post.)