The Joy of Jigsaw Puzzles - What’s The Secret To This Popular Pastime?
A cold wet miserable day and I'm standing in my local library, sheltering from the rain. I casually browse the bookshelves, flicking through the autobiographies.
Something catches my eye. In the corner on red comfy tiny squashy sofas, sits a mother and a daughter of around two years of age. What a joy seeing both of them spending quality time with each other.
The daughter looks up holding a jigsaw puzzle in her tiny right hand. The mother nods and together they place the puzzle piece into the slot. This jigsaw is of a farmer in a tractor. I can make out sheep and a sheep dog. There are only six pieces but yet this simple jigsaw puzzle I can see has provoked so much fun and enjoyment. If you like childrens jigsaws take a look at these.
I turn away and begin to start thinking about jigsaw puzzles and the joy they have brought my family over the years. I remember my grandmother carefully moving the pieces around when she visited us at Christmas. Like her visits to us, Christmas trees, Christmas fruit cake - having a jigsaw "on the go" was an important part of the Christmas tradition. "Edges always first," she always said. The whole family used to fit in the pieces as they wandered past. The jigsaw puzzle was always placed on a green table cloth which covered a rather wobbly picnic table. Christmas jigsaw puzzles are always popular.
I push the double doors in the main foyer of the library. It's now stopped raining and I can see umbrellas being put down. Cars splash past but it's the sign above the community noticeboard I spot. It directs visitors to climb the stone steps to the floor above to the museum. There's another flyer pinned to the board advertising the latest exhibition.
I'm intrigued and duly climb the steps. There are pictures on the walls of how the local town of Weybridge, Surrey used to look like in the 1920s through to the 1960s. Although only small, Elmbridge museum has a wide collection of historical memorabilia. There's much to celebrate that's local in this part of the world. Henry VIII had one of his (as I was later to find out) many palaces at Oatlands. This was also home to the first racing car circuit at Brooklands, the same area where Concorde was designed and parts built.
But it's the corner of the room that grabs my attention. It's of a Victorian School Room set. There's a cane, a blackboard and dusty text books. Just like I had seen downstairs in the library there's a jigsaw - this one is of a world map.
I begin chatting to the museum curator and we talk about jigsaw puzzles. A search on the internet computer,tucked by the main enquiry desk, reveals that jigsaws were designed to help British children learn about geography. A London engraver and mapmaker John Spilsbury mounted a sheet of hardwood around in 1760. What a great idea and a fun way to learn about the world around and so jigsaw puzzles began to grown in popularity, especially as an educational tool.
I learn that by 1880 different tooling was coming into use with the introduction of a fretsaw, not what we would know as a true jigsaw. Plywood was to come into use towards the end of the century. I found it fascinating to discover that illustrations were glued or painted to thr front side of the wood. Jigsaw makers would make pencil tracings to the back of each jigsaw puzzle. This, however, all seems like a long way removed from when my grandmother helped us to do our own Christmas jigsaw, for fun.
Another revolution came in the 20th century for jigsaws - cardboard jigsaw puzzles. They were still mainly for children and the puzzles were die-cut. The technique of cutting jigsaw puzzles this way - imagine a giant cookie cutter - continues today. Our current best selling jigsaw puzzles.
Jigsaws Educational Aid
How is it I wonder that jigsaws as well as being and educational aid, also give pleasure to generations, young and old.
I want to investigate further. A few days later I am coincidentally chatting to a local charity for autism, the Autism All Stars in Redhill, Surrey. They tell me about their first ever fete to raise money for their new charity. It was based on a Star Wars theme. Helen from the charity explains that the children were thrilled to see storm troopers but it was the jigsaw puzzles which attracted lots of attractions.
As Helen says jigsaws helps build concentration and are great for getting others involved (team work) but it’s the sense of achievement when a piece slots into its rightful home, that builds a sense of pride and satisfaction. And it occurred to me that all of those areas gave us enjoyment as a family when we were doing jigsaw puzzles with Grandma. There’s also of course the challenge of whether you can find the right piece to fit the right slot.
I also discovered from Helen that the medical professional recommend jigsaws for helping with hand-eye co-ordination especially for those who have suffered strokes. Large piece jigsaw puzzles work well
I remember the image of that mother and daughter in the library doing the large piece jigsaw of the farmer with his tractor. On the surface I could see the joy in their faces but what’s incredible to think is that this jigsaw puzzle will help develop so many skills for this little girl. It is all because of the jigsaw beginning as a humble educational tool.And unlike many other educational toys, jigsaw puzzles offer exceptional value (and not just from a financial point of view). See what jigsaws we've just added.