Make room among your family board game collection for jigsaw puzzles. A great way to build problem-solving skills and to improve concentration, the jigsaw puzzle is having a moment.
With an enduring retro appeal, jigsaw puzzles’ slow, deliberate pace can be quite refreshing. Moreover, they’re also great for passing time indoors. So, how do you find the best ones for your family? Check this guide out first to get an idea of where to start, then continue to browse some of the most entertaining options at your leisure.
- BEST OVERALL: White Mountain Television History Puzzle
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Mudpuppy Kaleido-Butterflies Jigsaw Puzzle
- BEST 300-PIECE JIGSAW: Colorcraft 300 Piece Puzzle – Mountain Lake Boats
- BEST 3-D JIGSAW: Ravensburger The Earth 540 Piece 3D Jigsaw Puzzle
- BEST FOR KIDS: Mudpuppy Arctic Life Search & Find Puzzle, 64 Pieces
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Puzzles
When it’s time to select your jigsaw puzzle, you’ll need to keep a few things in mind. Puzzle shoppers should decide on their desired image for the puzzle’s surface, the ideal number of pieces (and time commitment), and the set’s quality and materials. Here’s some information on each of those for your pre-shopping consideration.
Start with an image that is especially attractive or meaningful to you. After all, you’re going to be looking at it the whole time you’re putting the puzzle together―even longer if you elect to frame it or hang it up on the wall afterward.
Keep in mind that lots of different colors, patterns, and textures provide plenty of visual contrast, which can be helpful in assembly. You may need less (or want less) color variation as you become more skilled, but it’s advisable to have a little more variety when starting out.
The easiest way to determine a jigsaw puzzle’s difficulty is to consider the number of pieces it contains. Usually found with 300, 500, 1,000, or even greater numbers of pieces, jigsaw puzzles essentially range in difficulty according to how much sorting it takes to find the matches needed from among the pieces provided. In other words, if the same image is used on both, a 1,000-piece puzzle is more difficult than a 500-piece version because it takes longer to find the pieces you need.
While it may seem that the number of pieces might be the sole indicator of a puzzle’s difficulty level, there are actually other factors to consider, too.
- Colors and patterns: Colors, patterns, and contrast can assist in matching pieces and identifying where they go based on the puzzle’s image. For a medium challenge, you may want to select a color- and pattern-filled scene split with a high piece count.
- Piece sizes: The puzzle’s dimensions and piece sizes may also warrant some attention. For example, a puzzle with 1,000 pieces that reaches larger dimensions once assembled will probably come with larger pieces which are usually easier to sort and match. A puzzle with smaller dimensions overall will likely come with smaller pieces, which are more difficult.
- Cuts: Named for the tool originally used in manufacturing, today’s jigsaw puzzles can be cut one of two primary ways―ribbon-cut or random-cut―each resulting in uniquely shaped pieces. Ribbon cut follows a loose grid, which can be easier to assemble except that most pieces end up being roughly the same size and of similar shapes. The pieces in a random-cut puzzle, on the other hand, are easier to distinguish from one another and match to holes in the puzzle but there’s less of a pattern to how they come together.
With these factors in mind, an extremely challenging jigsaw puzzle may include 1,000 pieces all in the same color but different shapes, sizes, and uniquely random cuts.
2-D vs. 3-D Puzzles
While it offers many possibilities in terms of shapes and sizes, a 2-D puzzle is essentially a flat puzzle. These are the easiest to glue together and frame after assembly, as all the pieces are flat and usually around the same size.
3-D puzzles, as the name suggests, have a width and length as well as height. Their shape may build up to take the shape of a building, a skyline, a planet, or another interesting object. Often, these puzzles take a bit more time and finesse to assemble. While it won’t fit into a poster frame when complete, you can glue and keep your eye-catching build to admire on a table or a shelf.
Puzzle Piece Construction
Make sure you look for puzzles constructed from the best materials you can find. You’ll want pieces with an image that doesn’t peel easily and a thickness and weight that allows them to hold their proper shape in the puzzle. In 3-D puzzles especially, you won’t want a material that bends too easily under the weight of connecting pieces.
Most modern puzzles are made of cardboard (also known as “chipboard”), which is easy to mass produce and popular for its affordability. Occasionally they may still be made of wood, as they were originally, which tends to be even more durable but at a higher cost. They may occasionally be constructed of foam, magnetic pieces, or even plastic.
Our Top Picks
With careful consideration given to the elements covered above, this section rounds up some of the best puzzles to keep people with a variety of skill levels, entertained for hours.
Pop culture fans will probably recognize and appreciate how many famous characters from classic TV shows are sketched onto every inch of this 24-by 30-inch puzzle. Find characters from television favorites like The 3 Stooges, Baywatch, Captain Kangaroo, Dukes of Hazzard, Wonder Woman, Star Trek, Gilligan’s Island, Friends―and many more.
This popular puzzle was designed by award-winning freelance artist Jim Mellett in his home studio. Made in the USA out of sturdy chipboard on recycled paper, this 1,000-piece puzzle is high quality and ready for years of enjoyment.
This premium kaleidoscope-inspired puzzle creates an eye-popping piece once assembled, measuring 20 by 20 inches. An environmentally-friendly option, this puzzle is made with non-toxic inks, crafted on puzzle board that’s 90 percent recycled paper, and packaged in 70 percent recycled materials.
This vibrant butterflies image has impressive contrast and a fun, contemporary style. Suitable for ages 8 through 98, this vividly colored arrangement looks gorgeous against the blue background as the richly-hued creatures show off their impressive wing patterns. This inexpensive puzzle contains 500 pieces, offering great value in a challenging package.
Colorful and well-made, this picture-perfect puzzle captures a vibrant row of kayaks drying in the sun next to a glistening lake, with thick rows of forest and sunny, snow-capped Alps in the background. It’s printed on recycled cardboard cut into large, easy-to-grasp shapes. The 300 random-cut pieces in this set are unique, making them easier to assemble. At a completed size of 18 by 24 inches, it’s large enough to make a significant statement if hung up on the wall of your choosing.
Designed to be displayed on your desk or bookshelf after assembly, this puzzle offers more enjoyment than just one night or weekend of construction. Once the project is complete, you can set the 10.5-inch model Earth on the included stand for a bonafide rotating globe―or, if you prefer, you can take it apart and rebuild it again later.
Each of this puzzle’s 540 pieces are crafted of premium sturdy plastic and numbered to help puzzlers stay organized while assembling.
Great for helping build to concentration and foster creativity, this puzzle is made with Premium Easy-Click Technology―so you don’t need glue to hold the pieces together, and you may even hear a subtle ‘click’ as you fit each piece into place. Made by the brand Ravensburger, a company known for creating high-quality products for more than 130 years, this puzzle is ideal for kids ages 12 and up.
Kids of ages 4 through 7, can put this colorful 64-piece puzzle art together, then find over 40 mammals, fish, and birds hiding in the Arctic habitat. They’ll spy orcas, eels, polar bears, and more, and have fun learning new species on an illustrated field guide while they search. The final product measures 23 by 15.5 inches.
An award-winning puzzle, it comes in a reclosable storage box that displays a picture of the desired result on its cover. The puzzle consists of 90 percent recycled eco-friendly greyboard, while the packaging is 70 percent recycled. Artwork on the box is printed with soy-based inks.
FAQs About Puzzles
It’s understandable if you still have questions about jigsaw puzzles, particularly if it’s been a while since you’ve enjoyed this rewarding assembly process. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions and answers about jigsaw puzzles.
Q. What materials are puzzles made from?
When first popularized in the United States, puzzles were all constructed of wood, which made them quite expensive and only available to the upper classes. Later, puzzle makers created more affordable options from cardboard (also known as chipboard). The same holds true today: You’ll find budget-friendly cardboard and recycled paper versions in most sizes and wood puzzles at a higher cost. Plastic, foam, and magnetic puzzles are also available from some manufacturers.
Q. How long does it take to do a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle?
Depending upon how difficult the puzzle is and how many people are working on it, it can take anywhere from 3 hours to 10 or more hours for the average person to complete a 1000-piece puzzle on their own.