At nearly four years old, our son is just now becoming interested in board games. But of course, they are board games focused on the very young crowd.
That makes it tough for my husband and me to stay motivated for very long. For our family game nights, we much prefer puzzles. Custom puzzles we’ve made or been gifted are even better.
In our family, the tradition of gifting custom puzzles started with my sister. She ordered a very simple puzzle with a picture of me and my son and gave it to us as a Christmas present.
Somehow we mentioned it to my father-in-law and that became one of his favorite gifts to give us. His photos of trains and trees from around his town are now my son’s favorite puzzles to work on during family game night because he recognizes the scenes.
Every time my son pulls out the boxes and dumps them out on the floor, I hear all about the Fort Bragg Skunk Train and how we met the conductor and how Grandpa bought him popcorn from the lady with the hat on that car at the back but he really wanted a cookie instead.
The day was cloudy and we had to wait a long time to get on the train but then someone started playing the guitar and that made the time go by faster.
That inevitably leads to other conversations and stories and trains he wants to ride on one day. Followed by questions like when can we go back to see Grandma and Grandpa? Can we make pumpkin pie from the pumpkins in the greenhouse again? Will there be blackberries on the bush? Did the bear eat all the plums again?
The picture on the puzzle brings back memories that spark conversations about creating new ones. I sincerely hope this is a habit we can keep up as he grows older.
Family Game Night is Completely Customizable
- Puzzles in general are an excellent screen-free way to develop a range of social and cognitive skills. When kids work on puzzles, they also develop concentration, fine motor skills, patience, pattern recognition, problem-solving skills, teamwork, sequencing, and spatial vocabulary.
- Custom puzzles offer opportunities to talk about memories and associations with the photo in a natural way.
- Unlike board games or video games, puzzles require no special knowledge or skill and can be shared across multiple generations.
- You can leave them out and extend the fun over long stretches of time, dropping in as you feel like it.
- There’s no fixed number of players.
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Somer is the Chief Content Officer at Raising Families living in Southern California with her husband and five-year-old son. She spent 10 years in the architecture field as a designer and medical planner and now applies her love of integrative thinking and big-picture planning to her family and career. Read full bio >>