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As people in the modern world are living longer, many of us find ourselves with the responsibility of having to look after an elderly relative either at home, in a day care centre or old people’s home. Not only is there the challenge of caring for them on a day-to-day basis but also the problem of finding a way for them to occupy their time constructively. The key is to find an activity that simulates their minds while still being entertaining. One option that is often overlooked is the traditional jigsaw puzzle. Although they should be specially adapted for use by the elderly, jigsaw puzzles have a double benefit: they are both therapeutic and fun to do. We would like to take a few minutes to explain how beneficial doing a jigsaw puzzle is for the elderly.

Social Interaction and Communication
A jigsaw puzzle is something that is best done in company. Doing a puzzle together with your elderly loved ones is as pleasurable for you as it is for them.  It helps them keep up their social and communicative skills as they look for pieces and chat with you about what’s in the picture, and whatever else comes up in conversation!

Exercising the Little Grey Cells
Completing a jigsaw puzzle involves a process of matching shapes and colours and physically fitting the pieces, all of which are helpful in the treatment of conditions like Alzheimer’s Disease, Senile Dementia or Stroke Rehabilitation, for example, by conserving the neural connections in the brain and enhancing motor skills. Needless to say our preferred use is just for fun!

Memory Recall
If the picture in the puzzle is something that jogs the memory of the person doing it, then it can be used to start a conversation about what it reminds them of.

Satisfaction and Self-worth
When a puzzle is completed you experience a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment, which can be tremendously positive for an elderly person. This is also accompanied by a feeling of self-worth, especially if the puzzle was done without somebody else’s help.

What to look for in a jigsaw puzzle for the elderly
Familiar Picture – It is best to look for a puzzle with a well-known picture that your elderly relative or friend can immediately identify. Recognizing the picture will make doing it and talking about it easier. It is important the picture makes the elderly person remember something from their past or their daily life to improve memory recall and allow for further discussion on the topic.

Big Pieces – The pieces should be big enough for the elderly person to pick up with ease and see clearly what is on the puzzle piece. A puzzle with small fiddly pieces is not appropriate for the elderly as they cannot pick them up nor see what is on the piece.

Loose-Fitting Pieces – Bear in mind that a puzzle with pieces that fit together tightly makes placing them very difficult; you should look for a puzzle whose pieces fit together loosely.  Even a “puzzler” who suffers from a motor condition that causes their hands to shake will find themselves capable of putting the pieces into place.

Wooden Pieces – Thick wooden pieces are much easier to pick up than plastic ones. They are heavier than plastic pieces and they are sturdy enough to last so the puzzle can be done over and over again.

Extra Poster Included – Look for a puzzle that contains an extra print of the poster of the puzzle image. It can be a great help when doing a more challenging puzzle and you can even put it up on the wall for decoration!

The range of Big Piece Puzzles for the elderly at Willis Toys Ltd offers you the all the benefits mentioned above. It is very important for us to make a good quality puzzle that gives you and, more importantly, your family’s senior members what they need from a therapeutic and fun product. We hope this range of puzzles lets you enjoy some quality moments with them. Happy puzzling.

Doing puzzles is an important part of a child’s development but its benefits are often overlooked. We’d like to talk more about these benefits to help you to choose the right puzzle for your child or relative.

Willis Toys wooden puzzles are an up-to-date version of a traditional toy, and are designed with education in mind. They are exceptional value for money considering the number of positive rewards you can get out of just one toy. It’s an activity that can be shared with friends or family, one which provides a tremendous sense of satisfaction when the last piece is fitted, making the child want to do the puzzle again and again.

Here are just some of the benefits your child can get out of a Willis Toys puzzle.

Provides a focus for chatting about what is shown in the picture
Improves the child’s hand-eye coordination
Develops the child’s ability to rationalize size/shape recognition
Encourages the steps that are taken by the child in a logical sequencing process
Enhances spatial awareness
Develops the child’s ability to identify alphabet letters later because doing puzzles has helped them to recognize shapes
Encourages perseverance in completing an activity once it is started
Builds a child’s confidence and sense of achievement when they complete the puzzle
Above all doing puzzles is fun!

Why a Wooden Puzzle?

Any toys played with by young children undergo a fair beating and therefore should be made of sturdy materials. Wood is perfect for making puzzles. It never bends out of shape so the picture never creases, and it can even be chewed!

How to Choose a Wooden Puzzle

Several factors should be taken into consideration when choosing an appropriate puzzle for a child. Here are some rough guidelines to help you pick the right puzzle.

The Photo or Illustration
The first thing you see when looking at any puzzle is the photo or illustration of the completed puzzle. On choosing, remember that the image should have some educational value but also be something the child can relate to. If the image is familiar to the child or fulfils the educational objective (like learning colours or naming objects), the experience of completing the puzzle will be all the more enjoyable, satisfying and productive. The image should be easily recognizable so the child can identify it as something they see around them in their everyday life. It should also have distinguishable features to help them decide where to put the piece so that it ends up in the right place.

Ease of fit and handling
Needless to say, children have small hands, so they will find it easier to pick up and place a puzzle with large pieces. If the pieces are thick and have pegs to hold onto, like all our wooden puzzles for the very young, it will be easier still.

Does the puzzle have a matching image underneath?
Having a matching image in the puzzle tray means the puzzle is self-correcting. In other words the child can do the puzzle without the help of an adult, using the image underneath to guide them. It is the perfect way to allow the child to feel confident they are placing the piece correctly, giving them a great sense of achievement.

Does the piece fit all the way into its tray?
At Willis Toys, we feel that a puzzle piece should fit completely inside the puzzle tray. There are many puzzles on the market today, aimed at the very young, that have pieces that protrude above the puzzle. Although they many look attractive, they are not a clear indicator to the child that the piece has been fitted correctly as it does not fall all the way into the tray.

Number of Pieces
The number of pieces is fundamental for the child’s success in getting the most out of a puzzle.  A puzzle should be challenging but not too difficult. If the puzzle is beyond the child’s capabilities, they will get frustrated and lose interest. If the puzzle has too few pieces, it will be too easy, and so may not serve its purpose as an educational toy.

Each child is of course different, but generally speaking we recommend the following (bear in mind, if the child is a keen puzzler, they will need more pieces than usual to maintain the challenge):
1 to 2 years – 4 to 5 pieces
2 to 3 years – 5 to 10 pieces
3 to 4 years – 10 to 36 pieces
4 to 5 years - 36 pieces and up

Happy Puzzling!

A few short paragraphs are not really enough to show how important a jigsaw puzzle can be for a child’s development. Nevertheless, we hope we have made the task of choosing the right puzzle just that little bit easier so that your child or relative can enjoy the countless benefits these timeless toys have to offer. From all of us here at Willis Toys, we thank you for your time and wish you happy puzzling!

Almost all toys can be described as educational, each offering a physical, sensory or creative aspect from which the child can learn and develop. There are, of course, educational toys out there which have been specially created to help nurture childhood development, designed to support a specific development such as co-ordination or identification.

But why are toys such an important part of childhood development? No child is born understanding the world they’re brought in to, so from day one they have to learn what things are and how they work. This makes it important to let children play and explore with everything to help build their knowledge and understanding.

There are a range of educational toys all designed to help with the development of various vital learning skills. For example, infants particularly need sensory products which allow them to experience different textures and noises. These sorts of stimulating educational toys are great for infants to begin to understand how things fit into the world. For example, you will probably notice how babies love to drop and pick up; this is them beginning to understand gravity. Toys such as rattles allow them to find a connection between an action (shaking) and an outcome (noise), with push-pull toys again teaching them that they are initiators.

Toddlers can then build on these foundations, and play with educational toys which help them to imitate more adult skills. Much more physical at this age, toddlers enjoy educational toys which involve co-ordination and experimentation, with it important to encourage understanding of the toys and activity they are taking part in. Allowing toddlers to express themselves, either through arts and crafts or dressing-up, enables them to be creative, and important tool to allow them to independently make choices.

For pre-school and early primary school ages, the encouragement of turn-taking is important, so games should be introduced to allow the understanding of ‘fair play’ to develop. Much more social at this stage, pre-school children can use educational toys and games to help initiate social interaction, and can also allow parents to really introduce the importance of good and bad behaviour. They are also still building on their understanding of adult skills and knowledge, and enjoy identifying objects from the world around them. Animal and transport toys in particular are favourites amongst this age group, as they help to satisfy the child’s curiosity.

Educational toys are important as they allow children to learn as they are having fun. Even as adults, we all know the importance of fun to help encourage interest, and for children nothing is more important than getting them to engage in learning and development. The development of skills such as imagination and creativity are just as important as skills such as fairness and knowing right-from-wrong, so providing children with a wide array of educational toys is essential.

With childhood development taking place from the day they are born, children need toys from day one to ensure they are stimulated and encouraged to learn the next set of skills. All of this helps to make sure that come school-time they are equipped with the basic skills to support their understanding of lesson-based subjects.