My 4 year old has been showing an incredible interest in puzzles. I figured this was a neat thing to encourage, as it clearly takes more concentrated thought and problem solving skills, etc. So, aside from the more simple board puzzles we owned, we started acquiring different puzzles. First, for her fourth birthday, we got this really neat set of 4 Disney puzzles, that are compartmentalized. Each puzzle has its own symbol on the back, so that at the end of the puzzle melee, you can sort them back out again (e.g. the fairies puzzle has a butterfly on the back of the piece).
So, as a result of her birthday and the holidays, we had amassed a few different puzzles that big girl put together enthusiastically. So, we were strolling through Target one day, and I saw this set of Disney puzzles that had 8, yes EIGHT, different puzzles in it. In addition to the princesses and fairies, it also had a few less girly puzzles, awesome I thought. I noticed that the puzzles were of varying size, e.g. a few 150 piece, a few 300, and then 2 500, or something like that. I thought it would be great because then big girl could increase the level of difficulty, wouldn’t get bored, etc.
Well, let me tell you. There’s a reason that 8 puzzles fit in such a seemingly small box. I’d say each piece is about the size of a stamp. Yes, barely visible. And, thus, each puzzle is about the size of a standard piece of paper. That’s all fine and well, except for the fact that the puzzle is for my 4 year old. What does this mean? It means that the puzzle is more than challenging for her, and I am the one who “gets” to do much of the puzzle. Granted, she tries her little heart out, which is wonderful, but she won’t even take the suggestion of attempting to put the edge pieces together first to make things easier. So, essentially, much of what she does with the pieces doesn’t lead to much progress. Oh, and since she’s turned four, she’ll turn her nasty temper on when I tell her it’s time to put the puzzle away for the day, she’ll throw a HUGE fit that we HAVE to finish it NOW!! Ahhh! But, I guess I’m ok with her wanting to finish something she’s started.
So that is about where I would stop if we were only discussing the “typical” way that puzzles are used.
I once saw this meme on Pinterest stating that legos are 10% awesome and being played with, and about 90% being stepped on inducing shrieks of pain.
Well, for some reason, my girls LOVE to use puzzles for any purpose other than what they were intended. Lately, for example, they are “chocolates,” to be carried around in little purses or other containers and “pretend” to eat. Except that the 2.5 year old sometimes really does try to eat them.
Puzzle pieces have been used as “wash cloths” to give baby brother a bath. Yeah, that one wasn’t so great.
They have also been used as currency to purchase imaginary trinkets.
Puzzle pieces are also a favorite token of the game “make a mess.” You know, the one where you spread stuff out all over the place as you flail about and yell/laugh hysterically, make a mess!
So I’ve got about a million puzzle pieces circulating through my house, in various nooks and crannies, casualties of play time. This also means that when a puzzle is actually being assembled, there is inevitably at least 1 piece missing, usually 2-5, I’d say, on average. The more pieces to lose, the more that are usually missing.
Then, probably the most sad, yet also funny, is the interaction between the girls when puzzles are being put together. This has been the starkest when one of those teeny tiny puzzles is assembled. I’m hobbled on the ground, usually holding the baby, trying to keep him from eating puzzle pieces as he throws a fit for me doing so, my back hunched over and sore from however long we have been sitting there, four year old rolling around in the pieces I have tried to organize, but still interested in putting it together. I have, with some help from four year old, put almost 75% of the puzzle together. Considering the circumstances, I’m feeling pretty damn proud that this fairy puzzle is almost finally put together. And then it happens.
2.5 year old comes and sits down next to us as we are working on the puzzle. She feigns interest in helping, but quickly realizes that it’s not easy enough for her to do quickly, and so thus she will not be helping. She then leaves, walks around, maybe picks up another toy to play with. Then, out of nowhere, 2.5 year old runs over as fast as she can and completely destroys the puzzle, twisting the pieces apart while simultaneously using her hands to spread them across the room, laughing hysterically the whole time. Sometimes saying “make a mess” (see above), other times saying nothing more.
4 year old throws a fit, cries, screams, etc. I usually start laughing at the irony, and then sit in disbelief, reflecting on the fact that this puzzle is never going to get done, and will probably be around for the rest of my life. But I guess that’s ok.