Thursday, January 22, 2015

Puzzles: Putting the Pieces Together for Fun and Well-being

Puzzles of all types remain quite popular today – jigsaw, crosswords, sodoku, Rubik's Cubes, mazes, word finds and more. Many of them have transitioned over to digital formats, but for me, nothing beats sitting down at a table and opening a fresh jigsaw puzzle.

Over the recent holidays, our family worked on a Springbok 1000-piece puzzle named “Macarons” – those deliciously, colorful French meringue cookies filled with buttercream (shown in the picture on this blog). This was truly a challenge to put together and turned out to be a picture good enough to eat!

All ages instinctively come together and respond to jigsaw puzzles. Just having a puzzle out on a table becomes a social gathering. Everyone likes to sit down and try their hand at the problem-solving challenge of it – some of us being completely captivated by it, such as myself. I can sit for hours until my eyes are crossed.

Beyond the social fun 
The benefits of working on a puzzle go far beyond social fun. Behind the scenes our brains are getting a real workout and we are learning or using important life skills at any age. Here are five good reasons for pondering over puzzles:
  • Finer attentiveness to, and observation of details
  • Increased dexterity and hand-eye coordination
  • Sharper visual perception
  • Stronger logical, sequential thinking
  • Better short-term memory retention and recollection
When I worked puzzles as a child, I didn't fully appreciate the fact that the process was actually helping my brain to develop and cognitively learn these skills. Now that I'm older, I most definitely appreciate that puzzling can keep helping my brain as I age.

Just what the doctor ordered
There's medical evidence that people who consistently pore over puzzles in some form keep their brains more nimble and sharp. Puzzle pondering may even stave off mental decline and Alzheimer's disease as we age. 

Focusing on a jigsaw puzzle can also induce a state of well-being much like meditation can do for people who simply sit quietly for a period of time. While working on a puzzle, the concentration of the mind as it searches for color, shape and fit can actually push thoughts off to the side. As worries move to the background of the brain, heart and breath rates slow. Even blood pressure can become lower. A puzzle may be just what the doctor ordered!

Celebrate International Puzzle Day with us! 
Whether you're looking to help your child learn cognitive skills or seeking to keep your adult brain cells actively engaged, puzzles are an enjoyable and skillful way to spend your time. International Puzzle Day is coming up on Thursday, January 29, 2015. Stop by and pick up a puzzle at FUNdamentally Toys to celebrate!

So you think you have a great puzzle picture? 
Do you have a picture you think would make a great puzzle? You can submit it to Ravensburger, USA, in New Hampshire. Joyce Bambach of Byram, New Jersey, did just that and recently had a puzzle entitled “Buoy Doorstep” published by Ravensburger – one of 50 new titles added last year. The winners get either a flat-fee or royalties and their name on the box. Pretty cool! 
The company gets roughly 500,000 images sent to them each year! About 500 are selected for review. The selection committee looks for bright colors, lots of detail, patterns and interesting subject matter. Don’t be deterred by the sheer volume of submittals – you could very well have just the right elements in your shot!
Read more about Ravensburger’s puzzle selection process in this article from the New Jersey Herald, January 10, 2015.

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