When we began sheltering at home in the past couple of months, the first search I did on Amazon was for kid puzzles. I thought what better way to occupy time and reduce screen time then an old-fashioned puzzle. As fate would have it, millions of other parents had the exact same idea and most of the puzzles were sold out when I went looking. I was in the market for pokemon and puppy puzzles and most of them were sold out. When I began looking I didn’t even know the correct number of puzzles to look for and for what age group. In general I knew that 50 was too small for an elementary school kid, and 1,000 was too many. A quick primer on puzzles gave me the typical puzzle counts were as follows:
Puzzle Piece Count:
As any good parent would do, I read a ton of reviews, and then made the best educated guess on what number of puzzle counts I should buy. I ended up buying 75, 200, 300, and 500. I quickly figured out how long each of these puzzle counts would take for them to finish, and figured out their frustration levels as well. Your mileage may vary with your kids, but this is what I found as the correct ages for each puzzle count (please keep in mind these are guidances, and always to follow the recommended age groups on the box for safety).
Kindergarten – 1st Grade: I would say 100 and 200 puzzle counts are the appropriate puzzle counts, with the more experience your kid gets the higher up they can get. I would estimate that the 100 counts would be about an 1 hour to 1.5 hours of time to complete.
2nd Grade – 3rd Grade: I would give them an easy one to start maybe 100 pieces, and then go to 200 pieces and 300 pieces as the next step. These took about 2 hours to finish, if they were able to concentrate and focus for most of that time. I thought this would be a problem, but the kids were able to focus for that extended period fairly consistently.
4th Grade and up: I would go with 300 puzzle counts and up.
Quick Tips for Making Puzzles fun for Kids:
- Have them put the puzzle together on a table or flat surface you are ok being occupied for multiple days. I made the mistake of having them put together puzzles on the dining room table, and that just ended up with me getting frustrated with no place to eat for days.
- Get them a puzzle they like. Whether that is fortnite, pokemon, puppies, geography, or animals, the more interesting the puzzle the more likely you are going to have it be completed. If you can avoid combining education with puzzling as your main goal is to reduce screen time. You are asking for focused concentration for a period of time for kids in grade school, if you try to teach history while trying to complete a puzzle, you will get an incomplete puzzle. In addition, you will turn them off from wanting to do puzzles from the beginning
- Frame the Puzzle. This is a pretty important step. Buy a frame for the puzzle and hang it up in their room when they complete the puzzle. This, for me, is a great way to complete the project, and gives everyone a feeling of accomplishment. You can buy frames from Target for $10-15, and they are well worth the investment. The kids get to decorate their room with things they like and enjoy, and they aren’t glued to the ipad, tv, or video games for a couple of hours a week.
Screen Time Reduction Estimate: 1 – 2 hours