Although there have been sliding block puzzles around since ancient times the jigsaw puzzle, whereby a cut up picture is reconstructed on wood or card, originated in 1760 in England. It is no coincidence the first jigsaw puzzle was constructed by a map maker, John Spilsbury from London, UK. These first puzzles were designed to teach children geography, as they reconstructed maps of the times. These early puzzles would have been expensive, being hand crafted on the finest hardwood. Most of the early jigsaw puzzles, up to around 1820, were seen exclusively as an educational game. For example pictures of British kings and queens, going back to 1066 would be made into jigsaw puzzles to teach privileged children history. It wasn’t until later, when printing and cutting technology enabled the mass production of these puzzles, that jigsaw puzzles became widespread as a game or pastime.
The golden age of jigsaw puzzles was around 1920 to 1930. This period was also the time of the great depression and it is said that constructing a jigsaw puzzle relieved stress during those troubled times. The low cost of these puzzles and their ability to be reused or exchanged could also be a reason why they were so popular in the depression era.
Today, my experience is that every child enjoys doing a jigsaw puzzle and adults are split into people that really enjoy doing them or people that never (or hardly ever) do them.
I have recently noticed, in break rooms, three or four very large jigsaw puzzles being completed at work. The jigsaw puzzle may well be making a come back, as people are looking for inexpensive ways to relieve stress and to socialize.
For group activities and as an educational game the jigsaw puzzle should be considered as a great way to develop a young child. Indeed for the very young, basic hand eye co-ordination skills can be developed as the large pieces of a jigsaw are fitted together.
I can still remember, some 50 years ago, the picture of a zoo on a jigsaw puzzle that I did with my grandmother when I was around 4 years old. She would keep about 6 puzzles for my brothers and I to complete when we visited her and we would spend hours putting them together and taking them apart to redo.
The next time you have a party for younger children, around 4 to 8 years of age, consider having the group complete a large jigsaw puzzle as a party activity.
There are so many jigsaw puzzles available today, that the theme of the party (if there is one) can be easily matched with the picture on the jigsaw, from princesses to pirates. Also I would highly recommend, for all children, going back to the original idea of jigsaw puzzles (to teach geography) and purchase a large map of the world jigsaw puzzle for you own children, or as a group party activity, to complete. I have done this with my own children and it is a great way for them to understand where the main countries and cities of the world are located.
Jigsaw puzzles are just one of the many subjects I have researched for girls party ideas that encourage “in person” collaboration that is as enlightening as it is entertaining.