5 cool new ways to play with puzzles

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5 cool new ways to play with puzzles | teachmama.comMany families have a handful of puzzles around the house, ranging from knob puzzles to jigsaws.  Baby puzzles and big-guy puzzles.

And especially in the wintertime–or on a hot, hot day in the summer–puzzles are a fab way of getting kids to slow down, breathe, flex those fine-motor muscles, and think a bit.

But what to do when you’ve done the puzzles dozens and dozens of times?

When the kids could almost do them with their eyes closed and hands tied behind their backs?

Then, it’s time to mix those puzzles up, my friends!

Today, we’ve got five cool, new ways to play with puzzles–the puzzles you have had in your house for the last five or ten years, the puzzles your kids have done a million times over.

We’re a puzzle family over here, so lately we’ve been stretching our brains and trying new things and reaching new heights with the puzzles we have.  And not-so-surprisingly, Maddy, Owen, and Cora have been totally game–wondering what else we can do to have a little puzzle fun with their favorite puzzles.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • 5 New Ways to Play With Puzzles You Already Have:  Get out the ole puzzle boxes. Even the ones that you think your kids are over, because you’ll be surprised at how much fun–and learning!–can be had with a few good puzzles.

play with puzzles--puzzle mash-up

1. Puzzle Mash-Up: Using all of our ‘baby’ –or peg puzzles and easy jigsaws, empty the pieces and put them all in a big ole pile on the floor.

Make it a mash-up of puzzles–easier ones, more difficult ones, and everything in between. On the floor, and it’s a puzzle free-for-all.

Goal: Be the first to put as many puzzles together as possible.

No need for a timer because everyone starts when someone says ‘Go!’ and the winner is the man with the biggest pile o’ puzzles.

Maddy and Owen seem to dig this more than Cora, maybe because of their ages, but even Cora gets in on the action some days. . .

puzzle play speed puzzle

2. Speed Puzzle: Set the timer and start puzzling. But with a quickness.

We’ve done this with wooden chunky puzzles, with medium-sized jigsaws, and with 100-piece jigsaws.  And really, as long as the kids are up for a challenge–and at least two of mine usually are–Speed Puzzle is a ton of fun.

Add a parent into the mix, and kids get crazy excited about it: Will Owen beat Daddy’s time? Can Mommy beat Daddy’s time? Who will rein as the Speed Puzzle Master?

Making it a semi-regular thing in your house to pull out the timers and puzzles is a fab way of bringing the familia together, working those fine motor skills, and helping kids develop strategy.

puzzle play puzzle hunt

3. Puzzle Hunt: Get the kids up and moving with a Puzzle Hunt!

Hide the pieces of chunky puzzles around the room and then scramble to put the puzzle together!

Especially for days when the kids are stuck inside, Puzzle Hunt raises little heartbeats and adds an unusual twist to a usually relaxing activity.

We haven’t tried this with our bigger jigsaws, or we’d probably all be nuts by puzzle completion, but with the chunky’s, with the smaller jigsaws, this activity is always a fave.

puzzle play puzzle race

4. Puzzle Races: Best done with puzzles that are a similar make or model, like the Melissa & Doug Vehicles in a Box which has four very similarly-shaped puzzles or one person does the Jumbo Numbers Chunky and another does the Jumbo Letters Chunky, Puzzle Races are just that: races.

We like to race head-to-head, facing our opponent with a judge in the middle to make any last-second calls.

The minute someone finishes, he or she yells, DONE! and the judge declares a winner.

We sometimes mix it up by:

  • starting with all pieces face up (or down);
  • doing double puzzles (if you have two that each person could do);
  • sitting back-to-back so that only the judge knows how each person is doing.

Possibilities? Endless.puzzle play puzzle challenge

5. Puzzle Challenge:  Your kids think the baby puzzles are too babyish? Bring out a blindfold and see if they can really put those peg pieces in the correct places with their eyes closed.

And if they can actually do it with their eyes covered? Try it with a blindfold and a hand tied behind their backs. They will love–and I mean love–the challenge.

And they’ll love to prove how far they have come from their days of baby-ish puzzles.

This is far from an exclusive list of cool ways to play with puzzles–it’s five of I’m sure 100. How do you prolong the life of puzzles? How does your family continue to play, learn, and test those puzzlin’ skills with puzzles you’ve had for a good long time?

Yes, I’m a fan of passing good toys along–and we sure do!–just ask my sister! But I also feel like oftentimes kids don’t really use what they have to the max anymore because there’s always something new.  So until we’re officially ready to pass on the puzzle boxes, we’ll play, thankyouverymuch.

melissa and doug ba logo

Happy puzzle-playing!

fyi: I wrote this post as part of the Melissa & Doug Blog Ambassador program.   I’m thankful for Melissa & Doug for always creating great, smart products for children of all ages. Products that last a good, long time and can stand some good,  hard playin’.

Please note: make sure all of these activities are supervised and make judgements on the crazy-coolness of your puzzle fun based on your child’s abilities.

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  1. says

    Puzzle hunt is my fav – and I don’t even need to prepare it, my little ones seem to play that game ALL the time with not putting the pieces back to boxes! 😀

  2. Robyn says

    Did the mash up while timing. Got everyone including my husband and cousin involved!! We used my two year olds chunky puzzles and even my seven year old had fun. He asks to do this again and again thank you for a great idea and a new way to spend quality time with my son.

    • amy says

      YAY! Robyn, so happy to hear that!! You have no idea how much it means that you not only read my blog but trusted me enough to try the ideas and then took the time to write. Thank YOU!!

  3. Robyn says

    Amy, Thank YOU for such great ideas! I’m always rushing around and trying to find ways to entertain my kids without using the iPad or tv. I am so glad I started following your blog! Keep the great ideas coming. I also pinned this activity 😉

  4. says

    I love puzzles and used to play a great deal of puzzle games when I was teaching physical education in a carpeted sanctuary. For my younger students I had a bunch of cheaper 24 piece cardboard puzzles that I wrote codes on the back of the pieces with a permanent marker. Each puzzle had the code written in a color (ex red square, purple flower, green swirl) on the back of each piece and on the back of the puzzle. Students were divided in to teams of usually 2-3 people each. The students had to take apart their teams puzzle pieces and pile them on top of the board. I would come around and collect them and then scatter them around the center of the room (sometimes face down with codes showing, other times how ever they fell, sometimes face up) The rules were that you could only get one piece at a time and then had to run back and let a teammate take a turn. While one person was getting a piece the other teammates would be trying to put the pieces together. Each time a piece was found a new person was sent out to find another. It is suppose to be fast and keep your heart pumping. When a team finished they would sometimes ask if they could go help out another team. I love to teach my students to be competitive especially with themselves (trying to do their best and improve each time) and cooperative with each other. For my older students I did a similar game, but with one 350 piece large puzzle, that had the back of the pieces coded in to 4 sections. Each team worked on one 1/4 of the puzzle and at the end we connected them all together.
    I played similar games with memory cards. Creating lots of different versions based on the ages of the participants. The game was named moving memory, because you have to run to find matches all over the room, house, or where ever you are playing.

    • says

      WOW Heather that is AMAZING! How totally fun for your students. I bet they loved, loved, loved all of your games. Thank you SO much for sharing; I will definitely tie them into our puzzle-playing over here! Many thanks for reading, and HUGE thanks for taking the time to write and share your awesome ideas!

  5. Ricki says

    Also, it would be fun to give each child a piece to a different puzzle and then mix those two puzzles together and see who finishes first. I bet that would be a hoot!


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