Jigsaw puzzles are now a staple for younger children’s development as well as a recreational activity for many people of all ages. Originating in 1762, John Spilsbury, a map engraver, cut maps into pieces and gave them to the local children to develop their geographical knowledge. This was soon a success and many replicated his ‘puzzles’ for different areas of education. These later came to be known as jigsaw puzzles, named after the tool used to cut the wooden boards into pieces. The educational aspect of puzzles is arguably still an important use combined with minimising stress and other underlying benefits such as slowing down ageing.
Puzzles have been shown to increase the development of cognitive thinking, especially in relation to children’s progress in education. One of the key benefits to puzzling is that it has been shown to exercise both hemispheres of the brain, each associated with logical thinking and creativity. This leads to developing more well-rounded children, who can both solve problems as well as making use of their imagination which have positive impacts in their schooling. Furthermore, puzzles have also been linked with improving virtual-spatial reasoning due to the nature of puzzling, where the solver aims to produce a larger picture from individual pieces. Furthermore, when trying to solve the puzzle, the user is also required to pay attention to detail when trying to look out for any visual patterns. This has been shown to lead to improved memory and attention to detail, which are also instrumental in preparing the child for school.
Another benefit of solving puzzles is being in a better mood, due to the increased brain production of dopamine. This neurotransmitter is responsible for regulating mood and optimism. It also affects learning, memory, concentration, and motivation. Dopamine is released every time we do a puzzle and even every time we put a piece in the right place. This encourages us to continue to do so and challenge ourselves. Along with this, solving puzzles decreases stress levels. Our brains go from “Beta” or awake, to a state of “Alpha” when you are assembling puzzles. The Alpha state is similar to the state we are in when we are dreaming.
This shift in consciousness comes with many benefits, including:
Ability to make deeper connections
Improve our mood (as mentioned before)
Increase our self-confidence
Even lower your blood pressure and heart rate
Ultimately, solving puzzles is a great group activity, which comes with many benefits such as developing problem-solving abilities; teamwork as you may solve the puzzle with your family and improve interpersonal skills; and improves your mental health. This is especially good for children during their growth: Dr Verdine of the University of Delaware has found that playing with blocks, puzzles and shape games helps develop spatial skills, which later help when topics of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are addressed. Last but not least, medical studies show that keeping your brain active through puzzles can delay symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and reduces the amount of brain cell damage that occurs in Alzheimer’s patients. It also supports the growth of new nerve cells and strengthens the connections between them. Therefore, take advantage of the benefits that puzzles provide and get puzzling!