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  • Writer's picturePaul Andrews

Jigsaw Puzzles, The Beloved Pastime For Generations

Jigsaw puzzles have been a beloved pastime for generations, captivating people of all ages with their intriguing blend of art, logic, and the joy of completing a complex picture one piece at a time. While they may appear as simple cardboard cut-outs, jigsaw puzzles offer a myriad of benefits that go beyond mere entertainment.

Jigsaw puzzles trace their roots to the 18th century when they were crafted as educational tools for teaching geography. These early puzzles were called "dissected maps" and were often made of wood. Over time, puzzles began to feature a wide range of images, transforming them into both educational tools and sources of entertainment. By the 19th century, they were known simply as "jigsaw puzzles," named after the tool used to cut pieces.

In recent years, jigsaw puzzles have experienced a remarkable resurgence in popularity. This renaissance can be attributed to several factors:

  • Digital Detox: In an increasingly digital world, many people seek opportunities to disconnect from screens and engage in more tactile activities. Jigsaw puzzles provide a perfect escape from the digital noise.

  • Mindfulness: Completing a puzzle requires concentration, attention to detail, and patience, making it an excellent mindfulness activity. It encourages individuals to be fully present in the moment, promoting relaxation and stress relief.

  • Sense of Accomplishment: The satisfaction of fitting the last piece into a puzzle is a feeling like no other. This sense of accomplishment and completion provides a dopamine rush that keeps enthusiasts coming back for more.

  • Social Bonding: Jigsaw puzzles are not limited to solo play. They are a wonderful way for families and friends to bond over a shared challenge, offering a unique form of togetherness.

  • Family Traditions: Jigsaw puzzles are something that different generations can do together and people have often created real family bonds and memories late into the evening when the desire to complete the puzzle takes over and time passes by!

We spoke to Kate Gibson, Managing Director of Gibsons, a family firm that has come a long way since their founder Harry Percy Gibson formed the business back in 1919. Kate is the fourth generation to run the business which now sells a fabulous collection of family board games, hundreds of jigsaw puzzles ranging in piece counts and size and a great assortment of playing cards.

As Kate explains, there is still very much a demand for jigsaw puzzles. "There has been much documented on the therapeutic benefits of jigsaw puzzles. The tactile nature of putting the pieces together helps people to relax and unwind and there is something very special about building an image and immersing yourself in the story that is being created in front of you."

"We also recognise how they can play a part in combatting loneliness by keeping the mind occupied. They allow us to connect with others either by doing a jigsaw together or being part of the puzzling community."

"Gibsons also have a range of puzzles called Piecing Together. With fewer, larger pieces they are perfectly placed for those with handling or sight problems, as well as those living with dementia. The designs promote reminiscence and spark conversation allowing the hobby of ‘puzzling’ to transcend generations and continue much later in life."

In fact, there are plenty of benefits associated with jigsaw puzzles that include:

  • Cognitive Benefits: Working on a jigsaw puzzle enhances cognitive functions such as problem-solving, spatial reasoning, and memory. It exercises both the left and right sides of the brain, contributing to mental agility.

  • Stress Reduction: The repetitive nature of fitting pieces together has a calming effect, reducing stress and anxiety. It allows the mind to focus on the task at hand, offering a temporary escape from worries.

  • Patience and Perseverance: Puzzles teach the value of patience and the rewards of perseverance. Not every piece fits right away, but with time and effort, the bigger picture takes shape.

  • Art Appreciation: Puzzles often feature breath-taking artwork, fostering an appreciation for aesthetics and details in the images they depict.

Jigsaw puzzles have truly stood the test of time, even in the digital world in which we live today. As Kate continues, "In our fast-paced world, we are always looking for ways we can switch off from the many demands placed on us and jigsaw puzzles increasingly provide an antidote to our busy lives. They allow us to take time away from our ever-present screens which is needed today more than ever."

"We usually start our puzzling journey as children with 2 & 3 piece puzzles."

"Picking it up again later in life is a familiar activity that often evokes memories and warm feelings from childhood."

"It’s the simple things we crave when life can feel over complicated."

Whilst many might think that the jigsaw is a quintessentially British thing to do, that could not be further from the truth.

"We have many international customers and the worldwide market is buoyant. The great thing about jigsaw puzzling is the focus on imagery. Time and time again the success of a puzzle is determined by the quality of the image and this is universal."

"There are no language barriers, although we do see different image preferences and choices across the world," continues Kate.

The future also presents plenty of opportunity for a product that many might see as a traditional pastime linked to the past but again this is not the case. As Kate concludes, "As with any sector, there will be continued innovation both in terms of materials and piece counts. 3D puzzles have been popular and there will be other innovations to come. AI may well inspire innovation in our sector which is at odds with such a traditional pastime, but in our fast-paced world, it is inevitable and may well bring advantages we have not yet conceived of."

"As a family business we have come a long way since the business was founded back in 1919 and there is something for everyone in our range and it is fantastic to know that we help to create memories too. We continue to innovate and develop new products and look forward to seeing what the future has in store for the world of jigsaw puzzles too."

Jigsaw puzzles may have evolved over the centuries, but their ability to captivate and soothe remains timeless. They offer a wholesome pastime that nourishes the mind and soul.

As we navigate a fast-paced, digital world, the enduring appeal of jigsaw puzzles reminds us of the simple joys of finding the perfect piece to complete the puzzle of life. So, the next time you're looking for a way to unwind and centre yourself, consider reaching for a jigsaw puzzle – a beautiful, challenging, and rewarding form of entertainment.

Why do they remain in demand and how have they stood the test of time?


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