Jigsaw puzzles have always been a favourite activity for our family but it has taken on a new meaning as we are spending more and more time at home. With Bec and I both studying online from home, there are times when we need to find something to keep Dan occupied. Dan has a lot of activities he enjoys, but not very many that he can do completely independently.
He likes to do word searches and he often amazes people at how quickly he can find the words – even words he doesn’t even know! But you can’t do word puzzles all day. He likes to build his Lego sets too, but being quite social he prefers to do that with someone else. But Dan is very good at doing puzzles – even very large puzzles, once we have sorted the pieces and got him going. He can do a 500 piece puzzle quite quickly on his own.
The autistic brain is quite mysterious at times. It is a mystery how Dan can whizz through a word search or complete a 500 piece puzzle and yet be unable to figure out shoe laces. Watching Dan do a puzzle is a sight to behold. When he was young he would complete puzzles exactly the same way every time. He would always start with the same piece, and put the pieces together in exactly the same order every time. And it wasn’t necessarily row by row. The order of the pieces could be quite random and yet it was the same every time.
The puzzles he does now are quite large so I can’t really tell if he has memorised an order but it does amaze me that he can complete an entire puzzle with the picture upside down. The sky will be at the bottom and the ground will be at the top. I don’t know how he does it. If I am helping him I have to turn the puzzle around the right way – trying to do it upside down just sends my brain batty!
So we’ve been doing quite a few puzzles over the last few weeks and as we were working our way through them, we were deciding which ones to keep and perhaps which ones might need a new home. Dan is so good at puzzles it’s not much point keeping anything under 500 pieces. He also prefers pictures of things with wheels or dinosaurs so we are going to pass on all those lovely scenic puzzles which Dan finds a bit boring. And they have too much sky anyway.
Eventually though we ran out of puzzles and thought it would be nice to get some new ones. We especially wanted to find some big puzzles because the 500 piece ones don’t take Dan much time at all. Of course everybody else stuck at home has had the same idea. Even the online stores were almost all sold out, but we did find some at QBD and some great ones at Kmart which were deceptively more tricky than first anticipated.
Since Dan likes things with wheels, we picked this scene at a train station but there is so much detail in the picture it was like doing one of those I Spy computer games where you have to find all the things in the picture. We have a few more like the train station scene which will be fun to do.
We also found one which turned out to be the most challenging one of all. Where’s Wally at the Museum. Dan already had one Where’s Wally puzzle, but this new one had 1000 pieces. Seemed like a good idea at the time!
It is still out on display because it took so long to do and was so challenging we haven’t wanted to pack it away!
It’s not surprising that puzzles are having a run on popularity during Covid 19. With working and communicating online, we get sick and tired of looking at a screen. There are only so many movies you can watch and so many things you can do online – you start to get itchy fingers. A very similar thing happened during the Great Depression. Commercial jigsaw puzzles first appeared around 1760 but they surged in popularity during the Great Depression because it was a cheap form of entertainment. Interestingly, they were first called “dissections” because the early puzzles were wooden designs of a world map created to teach children world geography. It wasn’t until the late 1880s that they started to be called jigsaw puzzles. Apparently the largest puzzle available commercially has just over 50,000 pieces. Don’t think I will be getting one though.
I suppose when life returns to a shade closer to normal, the charity stores may be overflowing with donations of puzzles – hopefully still with all the pieces. Still, it is a great activity for families to do together and helps to keep the brain cells ticking over, which is why puzzles are recommended by associations such as Dementia Australia. Perhaps post Covid 19, we might consider donating our puzzles to retirement villages, support services or any seniors we might have living close by.
In the meantime… happy puzzling!