In the UK, one person develops dementia every three minutes. Jigsaw puzzles are a wonderful pastime for those who suffer with Dementia as they are an excellent way to focus the mind.
Dementia Action Week takes place on 21-27 May. The Alzheimer’s Society is asking everyone to take actions big and small to improve the lives of people affected by dementia.
During this week, if you buy one Gibsons jigsaw puzzle from our store, you can get Gibsons ‘Purrfect Chocolate’ 500 piece jigsaw puzzle Half Price!
For every copy of ‘Purrfect Chocolate’ sold during Dementia Action Week, Gibsons will kindly donate 50p to the Alzheimer’s Society.
Purrfect Chocolate 500 Piece Gift Puzzle – £11.99 / This week only 6.99 when you buy any Gibsons jigsaw puzzle for Dementia Action Week. View
For every copy of ‘Purrfect Chocolate’ sold during Dementia Action Week, Gibsons will kindly donate 50p to the Alzheimer’s Society.
Gibsons Jigsaw Puzzles
We have a wonderful range of jigsaw puzzles and stock many that are smaller in size with larger puzzle pieces. This makes the puzzle experience that little more smoother and focuses the mind. Take a look at some of them below…
Treasure Hunt 500 Piece Jigsaw Puzzle – £8.99
Everyone in the village has gathered for the annual summer treasure hunt, whether they are taking part, or soaking up the sun with a pint from the local! View
Herbert’s Hardware Store – Steve Crisp 500XL Piece Jigsaw Puzzle
Herbert’s hardware shop is an Aladdin’s cave of useful items, and his excellent service means he always has a steady stream of regular customers.
Celebrating Britain’s best streets. The view looking down from the top of Gold Hill in Shaftesbury, Dorset, has been described as one of the most romantic sights in England. The steep cobbled street, lined with beautiful chocolate-box cottages, is famous for its picturesque appearance. It has been used as a setting for film and television, including the famous 1973 “Boy on a Bike” Hovis advert, directed by Ridley Scott.
Summer days in this picturesque 1950s village are always bustling with activity. Fishing in the stream, harvesting vegetables in the garden, and nattering with friends are the order of the day in this cheerful scene. This gorgeous nostalgic design is full of detail.
Cat’s Cookie Club 250XL Piece Jigsaw Puzzle – £10.99
In this puzzle, Linda Jane Smith gives us a glimpse of the chaos that takes place when a clowder of cats are set loose in the kitchen. Seems like there will be a lot of mess to clean up. Let’s hope they can clean it up before their owner arrives back home, because she might not be too impressed!
This colouring-in jigsaw puzzle will make a unique gift that will leave the recipient feeling happy and relaxed.
Exclusive Colouring-in Jigsaw Puzzle
We have created an exclusive colouring-in puzzle which means you will start by colouring-in your chosen design, then break up the puzzle and continue this therapeutic activity by making up the puzzle! You could even frame the coloured-in puzzle to put up on the wall!
3 designs to choose from with a personalisable message
There are 3 designs to choose from and you can add your own message in the centre.
This intricate high quality wooden jigsaw is 108 pieces and is delivered flat and ready to colour in. It comes in a colourful envelope-style package which keeps the jigsaw secure while it’s being coloured in.
This unique jigsaw puzzle can be coloured in with pencils, but we have found that you will get the most beautiful effect from fine point felt tip pens.
This personalised colouring-in jigsaw combines the therapeutic activity of colouring and the relaxing pastime of puzzle making. It would make a lovely gift which you can personalise with a special message.
How to do a jigsaw puzzle, using a map puzzle of London
Before I began
I wanted to learn how to do a jigsaw puzzle and as someone who had never done a jigsaw puzzle I decided I would get as much advice I could from the All Jigsaw Puzzles Facebook community to set me off on the best foot. I got some great advice especially from Sue Corbett and Neal Cracknell. They suggested starting by sorting the edge and corner pieces into separate areas, followed then by pieces by colour or text size. Sue mentioned using bags or bowls to keep the sorted pieces separate. Neal suggested using a flat surface and to have good lighting.
The jigsaw puzzle I was given for the project was a site centred map jigsaw from Butler and Hill, which was centred on our London office, an area I know well. I started with a ‘Puzzle Snug 2000’ as my flat surface, which is built for making jigsaws on and has a felt top to make sure the pieces don’t move around too much while you are puzzling. I brought in some empty containers from home and was set to use these along with the box lid to help sort pieces. Putting the advice I’d received into practice, I made a cup of tea and set to work.
Sorting the pieces
I began by getting out all the pieces out of the bag and started turning them all to be face up and putting the edge pieces into the box lid and the corner pieces into a ramekin I had brought along. Taking the edge pieces, I had to sort these into groups depending on which side of the jigsaw they belonged to. This was fairly easy, as on a map jigsaw each piece is likely to contain some element of text; which on maps tends to be orientated in the direction. This meant I could orientate the pieces according to the text being the correct way up. The straight edge would let me know which side of the map the piece belonged to.
I then started sorting the pieces by colours which in the case of a map tends to be specific to mapped features. This meant I could identify the River Thames by the blue pieces, the A and B roads by their colours, and the parks by a green colour. From there I started with the place I knew and was in the centre, the house shaped piece of the jigsaw; our office location. The next thing I did was build pieces out of places I recognised, such as the local shopping centre and various streets and landmarks close to our office. The horseshoe shaped area of the Thames was a key part to get together first and really help orientate other locations.
Completing the puzzle
Perhaps the hardest part to complete, and therefore the last pieces to go in the puzzle were the little residential streets which radiate across London’s landscape. These all look very similar, and in most cases these were the exceptions to the rule of having their text aligned. The text tended to follow the direction of the road rather than being orientated with the horizontal upright text on the map.
It was at this point when I first really realised that I was doing the jigsaw without a guide image to work from. It would have been much easier to have a printed guide of the map at this point, but after a while searching though and reading unfamiliar street names, I realised that that it was far more interesting ‘exploring’ the area, rather than copying from an image. We do sometimes receive feedback asking why there isn’t a guide image with the Site Centred Map Jigsaws and now after personally completing one, I feel it’s far more rewarding to complete without one and really enjoy the discovery a map jigsaw can offer.
I really enjoyed learning how to do a jigsaw puzzle. The jigsaw took around three and a half hours to complete. On reflection, I really enjoyed my puzzling experience. At one point I was so engrossed in it that I forgot to drink the cup of tea my colleague kindly made me! I seemed to be able to shut off the world and get lost in the jigsaw and the music coming from the radio. There was a great sense of satisfaction in finishing it and I look forward to doing more in the future.
At first glance it seems odd that adults do jigsaw puzzles. People’s first thoughts when you mention ‘jigsaws’ are that they are for children, everyone has a memory of doing jigsaws when they were young or has most recent experience of encouraging learning with their own children. So why do some many adults enjoy completing jigsaws? After all a 1000 piece jigsaw, which is the most popular size, takes at least three hours and will take an inexperienced puzzler much longer.
1. They present a challenge – and they’re fun!
An adult jigsaw presents a challenge, and therefore a sense of fulfilment when finished. If you’re going to dedicate hours of your time to a jigsaw, you want it to be enough of a challenge so that it’s not easy but also that it’s not impossible – there’s no fun in that. Each jigsaw is different and so presents a different challenge.
2. They’re great fun to do on your own…
Most people do jigsaws on their own
3. … And they’re also great to complete with others.
The most popular jigsaws are Christmas scenes and many of these are completed as an annual ritual when the family gathers for Christmas.
A new jigsaw puzzle normally costs around £10.00 – £15.00 so while not exactly cheap it’s a similar cost to going to the cinema. When you’ve finished you can keep the completed puzzle (mount it or roll it using a jigsaw accessory), break it up and store to do again later or donate it to a local charity shop. You can’t do that with a movie you’ve seen! And of course you can buy second-hand puzzles cheaply from a local shop or online.
Dexterity is what separates us from other species. Our fine motor skills allow us to complete tasks that are not possible to any other animals except some higher primates. While the level of dexterity varies from person to person, there are a number of exercises that can help improve your dexterity if desired. Some contemporary computer games are even designed to improve dexterity. Unfortunately, most of the people who feel diminished dexterity are ageing and suffering from one of many diseases linked to the old age. Many of them did not enter the computer age. Fortunately, there are some forgotten tools that work very well in improving dexterity in older people, such as good old jigsaw puzzles.
Why would you need to improve your dexterity?
Dexterity means coordination between the small muscles in the fingers and the eyes. The whole process actually starts in the primary motor cortex of our brain and enables us to have such complex motor skills. Dexterity and what we can do with it is what makes humans, and some other primates, so advanced in evolution. But, dexterity can be lost or impaired for many reasons: injury, stroke, illness, developmental disability, problems with brain, nerves, muscles, spinal cord or joints can affect our fine motor skills, and diminish our ability to control the movement of our hands. This loss can be devastating and can deprive a person of self-sufficiency and the ability to live a normal life.
People with arthritis and similar issues need dexterity exercises to maintain the mobility of their hands and to continue being independent.
Even some healthy people would like better dexterity, such as musicians and surgeons. For them, having perfect fine motor skills and perfect hand-eye coordination means better performance, and in case of surgeons, well-being of their patients.
Training for better dexterity
Scientists agree that training is crucial for the recovery of dexterity after most types of injury that affects motor skills, particularly after such brain illnesses as stroke. Resistance training is part of the regular rehabilitation of stroke patients.
It has been well established by the scientific community that playing video games can significantly improve dexterity. But, video games are solitary pursuits and most people who are recovering their dexterity after a serious disease need to heal on many levels, besides working on their muscles. Social interaction is a big part of the healing process.
Puzzles and dexterity
We take our dexterity for granted, until we lose it or it is diminished. Even simple injury which makes our fingers swollen makes it impossible to pick up small puzzle pieces. Try to imagine how it feels for a person with arthritis, or someone recovering from stroke. Simple movements, such as picking up puzzle pieces, turning them over to see where they fit and fitting them in their right place can be quite a challenge.
What makes puzzles so eminently suitable for dexterity training is that they can be played at all levels. To help children improve dexterity, you can choose one of many puzzles that are designed for their particular age in mind. To assist stroke victims with their recovery, you can start with large size puzzles at that are easier to pick up at the beginning of the recovery process, and move to more complex puzzles as their dexterity improves.
Puzzles or computer games?
While the world is turning digital and we are looking for solutions to all our problems on the internet, there are many people who find interaction with computers lonely and sad. The latest computer games might be perfectly designed to improve hand-eye coordination, but even if you have a partner, that partner might be miles away, in front of another computer. Playing puzzles can be done alone, but is much more fun when few people play together, tackling different corners of the board, solving the problem together and competing with each other.
The social aspect of playing puzzles is as important as improving dexterity for stroke patients. They have suffered from a brain damage, which destroyed some parts of their brain and wiped out simple skills such as using their hands. Re-learning such skills requires more than just teaching muscles to do certain jobs. It also requires recovery of their self-awareness, independence, place in the society and the belief that they will recover completely and resume their normal lives. Depression is very common in people with diminished physical capacity and loss of independence. Completing a game of puzzles can be a great way for them to accomplish something they could not do a short time ago.
For a long time, medical practitioners believed that once a part of the brain is damaged, all function linked to that particular part is lost. In the last few decades, this belief has been completely reversed, with the discovery of brain plasticity. The brain plasticity refers to the ability of our nervous system to adapt to the damage and to change its structure in order to recover lost functionality.
Playing games such as puzzles assists brain in re-learning functions that are lost after the stroke. Puzzles not only involve manual dexterity, but focus, decision-making, patience and persistence. By repeatedly playing puzzles, brain plasticity is induced and lost functionality is recovered in time.
New kinds of puzzles
While jigsaw puzzles lost some of their popularity due to the prevalence of computer games, new three-dimensional puzzles, puzzles with customized photos and pieces of all sizes and complexity put puzzles back to where they belong: into our homes. They are great fun, can be very challenging and can keep kids sufficiently entertained during long winter evenings. Even small children can play, and not only improve their motor skills but learn a bit of geography, biology or anything else the latest puzzle has to show. And for old people, participating in playing with different generations, in the atmosphere of love and competition, means much more than just recovery from the illness. It gives them hope and reason for living.
For an engineer, architect, artist or a designer, the ability to transform shapes mentally is crucial in their daily performance. But, to develop advanced skill in transforming shapes, they need to start training very early. According to a study by the researchers from the University of Chicago, playing puzzles is an ideal way of training for such skills, and the children should start as early as when they are two years old.
Puzzles and spatial skills
The researchers worked with 53 kids aged from two to four, and their parents, and observed them playing with puzzles as they would in their normal home environment. They found that regular playing with puzzles can predict the advanced spatial skills in children when they are 54 months old.
When tested later, at the age of 5, the children who regularly played with puzzles – at least twice a week – performed much better when performing tasks that involved translating and rotating shapes.
Both boys and girls who played puzzles performed better at spatial tests than children that did not, but the results for boys were better. Boys also engaged in playing more complicated and complex puzzles. Scientists suspect that the reason for the difference between boys and girls was more in the parents’ input than the real spatial skill difference between the genders. Parents of boys offered more spatial language during playing puzzles than parents of girls.
Interestingly, parents from higher income group played puzzles more often and more commonly than parents from other income groups, and were more likely to buy puzzles to their children instead of other, more common and currently popular toys.
The research findings confirm the previously held belief that playing puzzles supports the development of mental skills necessary for performing well in disciplines such as technology, maths and engineering.
Fine motor skills development
Spatial transformation skills are just some of many skills kids can develop while playing puzzles. Playing with large puzzles can help babies develop gross motor skills, and for older skills, manipulating small puzzles pieces help the development of fine motor skills. Fine motor skills are linked to the hand-eye coordination. Children who develop fine motor skills early in life have easier time learning to draw and write or learn to play an instrument.
If children show difficulties in hand-eye coordination while playing puzzles, it is one of the early signs of some developmental problem and it means that parents should consult a professional. Early detection of a problem might increase a chance of finding a solution.
Problem solving and intelligence
Playing puzzles is an ideal way for children to lean an important skill of problem solving. Scientists consider that problem solving is a major aspect of intelligence. Playing puzzles, with or without a photo of the completed puzzle, forces children to look for the solution to the problem – finding the right piece for the space. They use their experience from previous games, but with different picture, in a different situation. The more games of puzzles they play, the easier task of finding the right puzzle piece becomes. They learn that they need to turn the piece around to find the right fit, need to look at the colors and patterns that match, and especially to create a frame with the edge pieces. These are not easy tasks for small children, but the practice boosts up the speed with which they learn in an amazing way. By trying different pieces for a certain space, children learn to strategize, separating similar pieces into groups for later use, giving their brains an additional exercise.
Children often have problem focusing and have short attention span. But, once they get engaged in a puzzle, they are able to spend an unusual amount of time playing without losing interest, in order to complete the picture. Completed puzzle also offers them a sense of satisfaction, boosting their self-esteem.
Playing puzzles with a sibling encourages the spirit of competition, adding to the need to persevere in order to complete the task as fast as possible.
As children grow up, they are drawn to more and more complicated puzzles. Most of them require a photo of the completed puzzle to be played. Children match each piece they are trying to place to the place they see in the photo, memorizing the right placement. In addition, if the piece does not fit, they put it aside, remembering the piece later when they find the proper space for it.
Geography, history and biology
By choosing the right puzzle, parents can help children with a difficult school subject and turn it into fun. If geography is posing problems, a puzzle with a map of the world might trigger an interest that the teacher failed to create. Puzzles with historical events, such as battles, can help children understand the importance of learning history in order to understand the present. A puzzle with a photo of a skeleton or human body can be a wonderful introduction to the basic biology of human organs. Considering the huge variety of puzzles available, any parent can find the right puzzle to fit with the particular subject their kid needs a little boost with.
While puzzles can be played alone, they are much more fun when played in a group, or at least with one partner. Playing together with others helps children to learn to cooperate, take turns, wait and follow rules. There is no cheating in puzzles, there is only one way of doing things, but the rules of fair play still apply. Children learn to cooperate by dividing the task and separating pieces by color or pattern, for example. If the number of players is bigger, children can play in teams, learning about alliances and team building. Like all the best toys, puzzles teach children about important society rules through fun and play.
Small children usually play with parents, who provide instructions and assistance by explaining different parts of puzzles, using words, phrases and terms that might be new to the children. Each new puzzle offers opportunities to the parents to increase the vocabulary of their children.
Besides boosting cognitive development, jigsaw puzzles are pure fun, providing hours of play and enjoyment. It is particularly important that children play with parents and grandparents, who are slowly losing their place in children’s education and development, being replaced by TV and computers. There is no replacement for human relationship and interaction. Children and parents who play together also solve other problems together, support each other and trust each other. It is not a stretch to say that, by playing puzzles together, parents develop a window into their children’s mind. That window might allow them to spot the problem when it occurs and offer help and support before the problem becomes more difficult.
Adults who do regular brain activities such as jigsaws puzzles could delay the onset of Alzheimer’s. It could even cut the chances of developing the disease by a third, according to research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The study looked at the leisure time of subjects during early adulthood, age 20 to 39, and middle adulthood, age 40 to 60.
Activities were classed into:
Passive, such as watching television, talking on the phone or listening to music.
Intellectual, such as reading, jigsaw or crossword puzzles, playing musical instruments, chess or other board games, knitting or woodwork.
Physical, such as baseball, football or other sports, bike riding, swimming, walking or skating.
The Alzheimer’s patients were less active in all these activities except for television watching, notes neurologist Dr. Robert P. Friedland, first author of this latest research. Worryingly, Friedland found that television watching may even be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.
Previous studies have drawn similar conclusions (most notably the MacArthur Study). They also reported that people who take part in intellectual activities have a better quality of life and a longer life expectancy.
But why do brain activities such as assembling a jigsaw puzzles have such a seemingly powerful effect?
Like any other organ, the brain needs regular exercise. Successfully piecing a puzzle together, even just placing one piece in the right place, encourages the production of dopamine, a chemical that improves learning and memory. Doing a puzzle, for example, also works both sides of the brain at the same time (the left and right hemispheres). This creates actual “connections” between the left and right sides, as well as connections between individual brain cells. It’s thought that healthier brain cells are better able to control or slow the Alzheimer’s process. Unfortunately there is no evidence that these activities will actually alter the disease.
This latest research from Friedman shows further evidence that simple brain activities have many health benefits and can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s. Anything we can do to keep our brains active, such as doing jigsaw puzzles, must therefore make sense.