Puzzles: The Game of Life

One of my family's holiday traditions is to complete a puzzle (minimum of 2000 pieces) by January 6. After we had opened this year’s puzzle box and dumped out the pieces, it dawned on me that this is probably one of the best brain exercises we could do. Think of all the areas of the brain we engage when we complete a puzzle: goal-directed persistence, spatial manipulation, foreplanning, visual discernment, fine motor skills, critical analysis, paradigm shifting, etc.

We have to organize the pieces, create a plan of attack. At first, the pieces look like shredded comics from the newspaper (remember them?). The hues of blue just look “blue” until we are left with only blue pieces. Then we notice the thin grey squiggle, the grains of green, the tiny white dot, or the fleck of orange.

Our family always forms the border first, but this is the only sequencing that nobody debates. My husband looks at the picture on the box, which I consider cheating because it’s akin to looking at the answer key.

Nothing comes easily; the pieces rarely fit together on the first try. You cannot finish a 2000 piece puzzle in one sitting. If you can, please email me so that I can interview you. If you get frustrated with your area, your brain may toggle onto a new set of shapes, patterns, or colors. Sometimes you need to flip your pieces upside-down to see how they fit into "the big picture". Sometimes, we correctly predict what piece will go into the surrounding pieces; much of the time we are wrong.

With time and effort, what initially seems impossible eventually becomes solvable. Although we work alone on our own little part, we come together as a unit to put the whole thing together. And voila, we have a beautiful, complete picture. And we finished on December 31.

Our 10-week course is geared towards parents and caregivers. Children can also participate.