Ever since John Spilsbury invented the first jigsaw puzzle in 1767 to help children learn geography, puzzles became some of the most important learning tools and games as well. British cartographer used a simple idea to do this. First, he created a map of the world on a wooden plank, and then sawed off all of the countries. The result were the pieces which were world’s first jigsaw puzzle and the concept itself had remained pretty much the same up until now. Other puzzles followed soon after and the idea remained as one of the most engaging and fun ways of both learning and stimulating one’s brain activity at the same time.
At the turn of the 20th century, puzzles have become more than just a learning aid. That’s when puzzle contests started to emerge from the various newspapers of the time. The idea was to offer some kind of reward (mostly monetary) to those who would do the best job at solving the given puzzle. However, the main idea behind this was to enhance the volume of sold papers through the addictive puzzles and the lure of a possible prize. Since the middle of 20th century, these types of puzzles became used for fundraising, and a couple of decades later, money didn’t have a lot to do with them. Modern puzzles in the press are there to break the monotony of reading. Quick puzzle at the back of the paper can even be the main or only reason for some people to buy them.
Types of Puzzles
Puzzles are now widespread and colorful. There are plenty of variations of puzzles, and apart from the aforementioned jigsaw puzzles, one can cross its path with mechanical puzzles, mathematical puzzles, situational puzzles, tangram puzzles, word puzzles and many more. Most of these puzzles can be produced in toy forms and designed for children of different ages. There are even puzzles made especially for babies and toddlers, and on the contrary, there are those made for adults with no limits in age.
Toddler and baby puzzles are mostly jigsaw puzzles consisting of only a few tiles to keep things simple. On the background which has to be assembled, kids will usually find some of their favorite characters, but themes can vary. Apart from jigsaw puzzles, youngest children have plenty of 3D and mechanical puzzles at their disposal as well. Arguably the most famous mechanical puzzle in existence must be Rubik’s cube. However, this puzzle is beyond the comprehension of toddlers, hence, there are plenty of puzzles which are much simpler, yet built upon the same concept as the Rubik’s cube. Some of the toys even combine these two concepts, hence, we have 3D jigsaw learning puzzles such as Puff The Alphabet Dragon Puzzle or Number Snail Puzzle for our youngest ones.
Puzzles become increasingly more colorful when aimed at ages from three to five or six, for instance. That is usually the time when children develop their skills with maximum efficiency. This is one of the main reasons why they should be given the opportunity to play with puzzles at this time, especially with those learning-oriented ones. Tangram puzzles can do wonders here as they are supreme brain teasers. Moreover, the tangram is both unisex and doesn’t have the age limit which means that whole household can enjoy it.
Good, old-fashioned Rubik’s cube is offered in its traditional; 3×3 form, but can also be smaller or larger if you require a bigger challenge. In fact, they go from 2×2 known as a pocket cube, all the way to 7×7 versions known as professor’s cubes. These mechanical puzzles are meant for everyone, but not recommended for small children as they can be dismantled or broken which imposes potential choking hazard. Rubik’s cube is actually the best-sold puzzle game in the world and moreover, considered as world’s best-selling toy.
Jigsaw puzzles might start from four tiles, but they can become as large as your wall. There are puzzles with 10,000 pieces which is considered as a standard for large puzzles. However, if that’s not large enough for you, 30,000-piece puzzle which can be almost 20 feet wide might be your best bet. There are no limitations to both number of pieces nor size when it comes to modern jigsaw puzzles. There’s also a plethora of themes, from nature, over historical themes, all the way to modern-day backgrounds. Children under the age of 12 shouldn’t try to assemble such a large puzzles as this can be time-consuming and frustrating work. However, everyone is welcome to try it if they think that they have what it takes, as long as they don’t start eating the pieces. Thanks to the myriad of topics and backgrounds that have found their way to most of the jigsaw puzzles over the years, it is hard to discern which of these were the most popular. It mostly depends on one’s taste and if you happen to like the background, go for it.
Some of the most popular puzzles of the modern age aren’t toys, but games. These are crosswords and sudoku puzzles and fall under pen-and-paper category. There’s plenty of variations in both categories, but one thing is for certain – world wouldn’t have been the same place without them. Metapuzzles combine several types of puzzles and each puzzle’s answer is further used to decipher the final answer of the metapuzzle. They have been used in a number of ways which even include video games, especially those on early consoles. Speaking of video games, there’s a lot of puzzle games today, widely available to people worldwide. Card games, mahjong, domino, sudoku, logical games, brain teasers, etc. You can even assemble your own jigsaw puzzle over your PC if buying one isn’t really your cup of tea.
All in all, puzzles have evolved a great deal since they were first invented, at least as toys. Some of the puzzle games have existed for a long time before the jigsaw puzzle first saw the light of day. Still, the principle is the same with most of them. They are meant to exercise our brain and to let us have fun in the process. Thanks to technological advancements in last 30 years or so, many of unconventional puzzles have become available globally, and you’re only a few clicks away from playing them.