Growing up in a four sibling household has left me with memories of circus like furore, chaotic giggling sessions, non stop song rewriting and games that would ultimately end in an upturned board. The typical two sibling household is busy enough – just imagine adding two more kids to the equation. I barely remember a quiet time from my childhood. But when I do remember a quiet time, filled with concentration and bonding, with focus and team work – one image comes to mind. A pile of pieces and a jigsaw puzzle coming alive.
Jigsaw Puzzles and My Parenting Style
When my daughter was born, I was young. Not very young – just young. I did not know too much about the world, but enough to know that whatever else I may or may not become, I will be a good mother. My definition of a good mother, though, was a slightly different one. I wanted to be her best friend. Also, I wanted to be the one she listened to. I wanted her to be scared of disappointing herself. I wanted to be the mirror that would reflect her potential. One that would show her where she was stopping short. I wanted to be a firm voice that would make her stop and think before leaping into something unhelpful. I wanted to be someone who she would be able to sit with, knowing she was never alone. I wanted to set the tone for her inner voice – for that voice to be kind to her. And more than anything I wanted her to have courage.
I devoured books and articles that basically told me everything I needed to know to keep a baby alive and healthy. And those books helped a great deal. But when I looked for content that would teach me to nurture the person inside her, I was only met with a slew of terms from helicopter parenting to cosseting parenting, bulldozing parenting and lawnmower parenting. Very quickly I realized I would have to find my own way.
Finding the Pieces that Fit
Very quickly, she began to crawl, sit up, cruise and then walk. In those very short 12 months, I realized she was different. Not just unique, but also different. With my limited knowledge, I found myself comparing her general demeanor to the symptoms of ADHD. Either that or she was a puppy in a previous lifetime! There was very little sleep happening but wild energy was always present. I would have to channel that energy. Without losing my mind. I would have to preserve her individual spirit, without ignoring problem areas.
Since she was too young for a diagnosis, I knew I had to look at ways to contain symptoms so that they did not interfere with her milestones. To me, her milestones were not just walking, talking, sitting, motor skills and others. I wanted to club her milestones with lessons in kindness, considerate behavior, social skills, resilience and more.
From sensory bags, to letting her play with empty jars and boxes that she would fit into each other endlessly, to DIY art and jigsaw puzzles as she grew a little older – there wasn’t anything I wasn’t willing to try.
Jigsaw Puzzles: A Lesson in Pausing
When I was young and even as an adult wanting escape the rigors of adulting, I would turn to jigsaw puzzles. I remember sitting down with my other 3 siblings to complete a puzzle – possibly, the rare time the four of us were able to spend time with each other without a sound. Jigsaw puzzles continue to remain a happy memory for me. My first one was a 15 piece Aladdin puzzle that I would break and put together every single day, for many months.
As a family, my daughter and I went through many a storm together. She watched as I had to uproot us and settle us down elsewhere – multiple times. At the same time, she was going through all the changes a young child goes through – age 5 to 13 years, and counting. Things would come dangerously close to an overwhelming, chaotic explosion. But then, a pause would help.
DIY art, painting, sports, jigsaw puzzles – all these things helped us in finding single mindedness. And once she was formally diagnosed with ADD, it helped us even more. The diagnosis was done by a wonderful team who also acknowledged the fact that she was a mindful, considerate and sweet child, not bogged down by her raging symptoms. While I was told this was a rare combination seen in such young patients, they understood how once I etched out her daily and weekly activities.
Without medication and with a directive to continue the same ‘therapy’ at home, I was able to embrace jigsaw puzzles even more willingly. I taught her to paint or turn to an ever present puzzle on the dining table, anytime there was too much energy or a blockage in her thoughts. We often sat together and completed puzzles, sometimes taking four or five hours gleefully from weekends to complete 500 to 750 piece puzzles in a marathon sitting! As a little one in play school, she had been awarded for her block building and puzzle making skills. And now, she was now rewarded with a chance to think, get a new idea and get back to the math problem or science project where she was stuck.
Jigsaw Puzzles: Moving On
When we found ourselves in a new country and with the teens casting that inexplicable cloud over her thinking and differently emerging social skills, we had much work ahead of us. There was also a new family dynamic in place – a new set of grandparents and a third person in the parent unit. Challengingly enough, we had managed to keep the original family unit intact despite the distance of a continent and paperwork, between her father and I. Now, we would have to work the new family into our protected system.
In the new setup, we have bonded as a family, letting talk of likes and dislikes flow naturally as we swap pieces on a puzzle board. She has built a bond without being awkward or conscious about it. Now, we look forward to weekends where we can open a new puzzle and get on it! She does not look at the new people as those who can potentially take her mother from her. She is now inviting them in.
Just think about it – what happens when you concentrate on something, together as a family? We end up talking freely, the music in the background makes us vibe together, the accomplishments and frustrations are shared, and we get to know each other naturally. For me, my brain to mouth filter shuts down and random, uninterrupted stand up comedy comes forth. Many laughs happen and memories begin to flood the family and relationship area of the brain.
Getting Ready for Jigsaw Puzzles
This Mother’s Day, if you are looking for gifts that can get the family together, you would do well to invest in a few things that can help you comfortably get into the puzzle mood! Here are a few of my favorite picks:
The Jigsaw Puzzle Table
If you choose the coffee table or the dining table for your puzzle, imagine having to break it soon after. That would hurt! Not to mention, mealtimes would be chaos. And no one wants to stand around the work in progress to eat. To be able to sit and eat, you can get yourself this amazing rotating board that comes with a workspace and pullout drawers. The portable table can be moved away so that normal life can happen too. Further, with the rotating board, you can actually turn the table to work on a new section without changing your location or messing with the seating plan!
Remember to invest in a good lamp that can also be used for other spaces. The main thing to remember is that you do not want to lose your eyesight – as a family. You want to keep the spotlight on the puzzle, especially if you are dealing with tiny pieces in an ambitious 1000 piece or 1500 piece jigsaw puzzle! This lamp is Alexa ready and comes with many colors to set the mood, which means you can continue to use it in the living room, bedroom or study. The halo like ring makes sure you have plenty of light without the glare that comes with most floor lamps. You can also adjust the dimness.
If you decide to seat yourself around the coffee table to have a go at your jigsaw puzzles, these memory foam floor cushions are the absolute best! You will need a few days to allow the cushion to inflate. Having a stack of a few of these will help you pull them out when you decide to get into your favorite new puzzle as a family!
The Support Seat
For anyone who needs extra support due to back pain or any other issue, it would be a good idea to keep this cushion handy. In fact, you can use this one for gaming or even for a change of scenery if you want to shift your work from the study to the living room. It helps you sit comfortably for hours at an end, without the discomfort that typically comes with it.
Have you noticed the mini war that threatens to break out when the box of pieces is not being passed around? Then this product is for your family! The sorting trays are a stack of trays that can be passed around. And if you find pieces that can help someone working on a section, just drop them into the tray they have. Collaboration much! And at the end of the day, you can pick up the trays and stack them so that you do not lose pieces that may be floating around.
The Jigsaw Puzzle Mat
This mat can roll up work in progress as well as finished puzzles so that you do not lose pieces or let go of a pretty, finished jigsaw puzzle in a hurry! The non slip mat can also be placed on a table or board, to be rolled up after you are done.
Puzzle Pieces Storage Folder
This folder is a book with clear pockets that will help you organize your pieces so that you do not lose them. This is a great way to keep your puzzles and their sections in one place so that you are not mopping them off the sight when a guest has to come over!
The Serious Puzzle Table
This one is perfect for a family like ours because we turn to a puzzle in the middle of the day when we are stuck at work or homework! This sturdy table comes with an adjustable height and adjustable angle for easy work. I can see this working for me when I want to stand up and stretch my legs after a few hours of sitting at the desk. Don’t forget to put a proper lamp nearby.
Dust Cover for 3D Puzzles
If you are like us, you will also one day try to put together a 3D miniature room puzzle. We are waiting to start a little library and we are already armed with a dust cover and board to keep it safe and well displayed!
My Favorite Jigsaw Puzzles
Now that we have set up everything for comfortable puzzle time, let’s go ahead and have a look at my favorite ones! While some of them have already given us hours of joy, there are a few on my wishlist that I am adding here, for the perfect mother’s day gift!
The Bookstore Puzzle (500 Pieces)
Because, bookstores and quaint streets! The challenging part was the flowers – we stayed up until midnight with this one.
The Cozy Cottage Scene (500 Pieces)
This is my mood – pretty much all the time. I live in a cottage like home in a historic town with a battlefield on one side, and scenes like these speak to me. We did this one in one afternoon.
The Calm Lake Scene (750 Pieces)
The calm lake pretty much led to hair tearing madness and much laughter. The sky was the most challenging bit with the circling ripples for clouds! But putting it together helped me envision our future home – who wouldn’t like the mountains and lake together?
Prague (500 Pieces)
This was an absolute delight to execute – we spent a rainy day on this and even got takeout to avoid leaving it. Needless to say, Prague came alive for us and many travel plans have hatched since then!
The National Geographic Puzzle (1000 Pieces)
We are currently working on this one – and the beauty of this picture is like a reward waiting to happen. Also, we are letting this one unravel slowly.
The Aladdin Puzzle (2000 Pieces)
This 2000 piece puzzle is next on my list – because it reminds me of that 15 piece puzzle that started me on this journey when I was all of 5!
3D Library Puzzle
We are waiting to break this one open soon – because libraries! Don’t forget to get a dust cover for this one, once you are done. This one comes with LED lights as well!
The Gettysburg Battlefield (6000 Pieces)
This one is close to the heart and we cannot wait to complete it someday. I am pretty sure we will frame this one up – because this is where our first home in America is.
The Dream: A Jigsaw Puzzle Library
I would absolutely love to have a jigsaw puzzle library and cafe – imagine working on puzzles, borrowing and lending pictures that tell stories! And I would love to hold competitions with 10000 piece puzzles on mats that can be carried back home. The decor? A green house structure with lots of different height seating and standing tables. Let’s see when this dream comes true. Until then, we are happy with our coffee table!