All About Jigsaw Puzzles

Many adults have done a jigsaw puzzle at some point in their life, and many children are interested in jigsaw puzzles from a toddler age.

While we may have never thought too much about it, jigsaw puzzles have an interesting history. They have served as a popular form of entertainment and education for more than 250 years.

Keep reading to learn all about jigsaw puzzles and how you can spend quality time with your little ones working on a puzzle.

Who First Invented Jigsaw Puzzles?

Jigsaw puzzles have a surprisingly long history, dating all the way back to the 1700s.

A mapmaker by the name of John Spilsbury created the first puzzle in 1760 in London.

Using his background in cartography, Spilsbury placed a map on a thin piece of wood and cut up the various countries and bodies of water with a scroll saw.

He sold his invention to wealthy families as a way to teach geography to children. In order to complete the jigsaw puzzle, you had to correctly place the land masses and oceans to fit together and form a map.

The tradition of the original jigsaw puzzle continues. Many children have put together puzzles of their home country, state, or the world.

While the pieces may be larger and more durable than Spilsbury’s puzzle, the concept still remains the same.

Over time, jigsaw puzzles evolved to incorporate other educational purposes.

They were created for nursery rhymes and many featured popular fairytales. By the 1900s, Parker Brothers created jigsaw puzzles made of interlocking pieces.

The popularity of jigsaw puzzles increased greatly during the Great Depression. People made and sell their own puzzles, and they became a popular form of entertainment for many families.

Why Are Puzzles Called “Jigsaw”?

When John Spilsbury created the first jigsaw puzzle and began marketing it to rich families, his invention was called something else.

By the 1880s, a new type of saw was invented. Known as a jigsaw, the tool allowed puzzle makers to create intricate pieces more quickly than sawing by hand.

Parker Brothers, the well-known gaming company, hired women to hand cut their puzzle pieces in the early 20th century.

Because many women already knew how to sew, teaching them to operate the scroll saw or jigsaw was relatively easy.

In the earlier history of jigsaw puzzles, pieces were specifically cut to make solving the puzzle more difficult.

Puzzle makers could use a jigsaw to cut precise lines around the various objects and colors in a puzzle.

This technique made it almost impossible to align puzzle pieces that included multiple colors or transitions. Also, the pieces moved around quite easily because they were not interlocking.

What Were Jigsaw Puzzles Originally Called?

Before the jigsaw was invented, jigsaw puzzles were actually known as dissected puzzles or dissected maps.

John Spilsbury is said to have used a scroll saw to create his map puzzles.

The name “jigsaw puzzle” did not become popular until the late 1800s. As the jigsaw became a popular tool for creating puzzles, the name shifted to reflect the method of manufacture.

What Is A Person Who Does Jigsaw Puzzles Called?

Many people around the world enjoy doing jigsaw puzzles, and they are created for all ages and skill levels.

Someone who enjoys doing jigsaw puzzles and assembling the pieces is called a dissectologist.

While the name sounds funny, it reflects the original name of jigsaw puzzles. Dissected maps or dissected puzzles were the first form of jigsaw puzzles, and the name has carried over in some ways.

Some people prefer to do various types of puzzles, not just jigsaw puzzles.

These individuals may call themselves puzzlers, a name that applies to puzzles more broadly than dissectologist.

More unofficial names for members of the puzzle community include Jigsaw Junkie, Puzzlist, Jigsaw-ist, and Jigster.

If you love jigsaw puzzles, you can call yourself whatever you prefer!

How Many Jigsaw Puzzles Are Sold Each Year?

Puzzles first saw a real spike in popularity during the Great Depression.

In the early 1930s, more than 10 million puzzles were produced each week, and more than 30 million households in the United States alone were doing jigsaw puzzles.

While puzzles remained a popular form of entertainment or a hobby for some, the popularity leveled off for several decades.

Ravensburger, a popular game maker, reported selling 21 million puzzles worldwide in 2019.

This volume averaged out to a rate of about seven puzzles sold each minute in North America.

However, the company saw its largest spike during the coronavirus pandemic. In March and April of 2020, their jigsaw puzzle sales rose 370% year-over-year as people purchased puzzles to do during lockdowns.

For a while in 2020, the company was selling an average of 20 puzzles per minute in North America.

How Are Jigsaw Puzzles Cut?

Early jigsaw puzzles were cut by an actual jigsaw or a scroll saw. The tool features a blade mounted vertically.

It resembles a sewing machine in many ways. The fine, straight blade runs up and down to cut intricate patterns into wood.

The pieces had to be cut by hand with someone operating the jigsaw and following a pattern to make the puzzle.

Some high-end puzzles are still made by hand today, but they are typically more expensive and less common.

There are a few popular methods manufacturers use to create jigsaw puzzles today.

These methods are more realistic for mass production than creating a puzzle by hand, and they tend to cost less and take less time to produce.

Some companies use a metal die to cut the cardboard of a jigsaw puzzle, similar to a stamp. In some cases, a laser cutter may be used to create vertical and horizontal cuts on top of an image.

What Is The Function Of Jigsaw Puzzles?

Jigsaw puzzles, or dissected puzzles, have a variety of functions.

The began as educational tools as they were used to teach geography to wealthy children who could afford to purchase dissected maps and learn how to put them back together.

Today, many parents continue to use jigsaw puzzles as a learning tool for their children.

Many jigsaw puzzles for toddlers feature large pieces that are easy to match up with a picture.

Children can improve their memory, learn their shapes, and identify words, animals, or other images by doing a jigsaw puzzle.

Jigsaw puzzles offer a range of benefits to older children as well as adults.

When working on a jigsaw puzzle, you use both sides of your brain, which can improve problem-solving skills and increase your attention span.

Jigsaw puzzles can also help improve short-term memory and visual-spatial reasoning.

For many, doing jigsaw puzzles has become a hobby.

Jigsaw puzzles can provide stress relief and serve as a form of meditation as other thoughts fade away when you’re focusing on the puzzle.

You might even find that doing a puzzle helps lower your blood pressure and heart rate.

COVID-19 also taught us that puzzles are a great way to connect.

Like the families experiencing challenges during the Great Depression, a jigsaw puzzle can help people come together for a shared activity.

Spending time with loved ones doing a jigsaw puzzle can provide quality time for the family and build stronger connections during difficult times.

Or, if you prefer, puzzles can provide a great activity for alone time.

What Is The Best Way To Store Jigsaw Puzzles?

There are tons of ways to store jigsaw puzzles, and the best way depends on your preference.

You can always store an unfinished puzzle in its original box, but over time, the box may get damaged.

You can choose to transfer the pieces to a plastic storage container or sealable bag to keep everything together, but don’t forget to save the image of the finished puzzle and label how many pieces the puzzle contains.

If you are in the middle of working on a puzzle and don’t want to mess up your hard work, consider purchasing a puzzle mat.

These thin mats go underneath your jigsaw puzzle while you work. When you need to take a break or move your puzzle from one place to another, you can simply roll up the mat with the puzzle inside.

The mat does not damage your puzzle pieces, and everything stays in place until you are ready to get back to work.

When you complete a puzzle, you can either put the pieces back in the box or display it.

To display a puzzle, you can purchase a frame designed to hold a jigsaw puzzle or a regular poster frame. Look for a frame that is slightly larger than your finished puzzle.

In some cases, you may have to glue the pieces to a backing to prevent them from sliding when you hang your jigsaw puzzle up.

When Do Kids Start Doing Jigsaw Puzzles?

Almost all jigsaw puzzles sold today come with a recommended age printed on the box.

This recommendation can serve as a guide when purchasing puzzles for children, helping determine the level of skill and concentration needed to complete the jigsaw puzzle.

Children as young as 18 months can start playing with larger jigsaw puzzle pieces.

Often made of wood or plastic, these puzzles feature shapes, animals, vegetables, or letters to help teach your child.

As your child gets older, you can purchase more complex and intricate jigsaw puzzles to offer a new and exciting challenge.

Final Thoughts On Jigsaw Puzzles

While the coronavirus pandemic certainly brought about many challenges and hardships, it also reignited a love for jigsaw puzzles.

Many people have discovered jigsaw puzzles for the first time or rediscovered them after many years. Families are able to spend time together, sitting at the kitchen table while working on a puzzle.

Jigsaw puzzles are still great ways to teach valuable skills to children, including memory, spatial awareness, and concentration.

But most importantly, they are a fun way to pass the time whether you are alone or with loved ones!