In March of 2020, the world changed and people were forced to find ways to entertain themselves during a pandemic. What were people to do? We were home, away from our friends and extended family, and we were bored! And then we cleaned out the closets and re-discovered the puzzle boxes on the shelves.
In 2020, the game industry saw an increase up to 400% in the demand for jigsaw puzzles, and this trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. It’s no surprise to look back through history to see the parallels of world events and the surge in popularity of puzzles (such as during The Great Depression). Puzzles provide entertainment and exercise for your brain. Puzzling can be a great activity to do alone or with a group. Puzzling also provides an opportunity to focus and can be a meditative experience which reduces stress. Overall, it is great educational entertainment that people of all ages and economic backgrounds can enjoy.
Did you know that the very first puzzle was created to teach students geography? In 1766 a London mapmaker, John Spilsbury, affixed a map to a piece of wood and he skillfully cut it into interlocking shapes to teach students about geography. Later, this 3D map was cut by a jigsaw blade, and hence the name jigsaw puzzle was born.
It has been found that puzzles exercise both the analytical and the creative sides of your brain, giving you an excellent mental workout. Connections between brain cells are improved, and short-term memory is increased. Puzzling has been a unique therapy for memory loss patients. A person’s ability to problem solve and critically think is increased when developing puzzle skills. When regularly puzzling, you will improve your visual and spatial reasoning skills. This can improve things like driving a car or navigating a trail. When you puzzle your brain also produces dopamine, which regulates your mood and makes you feel satisfied. It causes a person to concentrate almost into a meditative state, lowering anxiety levels keeping you calmer. Furthermore, because you are able to concentrate, think clearer, and focus, it has been noted that puzzles can improve your IQ score.
So, while many people were more than happy to say goodbye to 2020, I think the pastime of the puzzle is here to stay for families. Young and old alike have found a simple and meaningful activity that we can all enjoy!
To piece together the history of jigsaw puzzles, enjoy this video.
And to see the largest single puzzle in the world being built, check out this video.