Puzzles are one of children’s favorite playthings and now you can make plenty of them because they’re so quick and easy. Visit a department or craft store to find everything you need. Foam pieces come in lots of different colors, thicknesses and length. Purchase a sheet that is a half-inch thick. If you intend to make several puzzles buy the sheets in various shades.
Start by deciding on a shape for the puzzle. One easy shape to do is that of a snail. If you’re unable to draw freehand you can use a stencil or even a picture from a coloring book. There doesn’t need to be any detail to the initial drawing, just an outline of the animal. Cut a picture from a book, lay it onto the foam, then trace around it. Cut out the general shape of the snail which should be about the size of a dinner plate or larger.
Use a permanent marker to draw eyes and a smile on the snail. Or, purchase silly craft eyes to glue onto the face area of the snail. Begin cutting the snail shape into 27 pieces remembering to cut the “tabs” that hold each piece to the next. A good pair of scissors is needed for this craft.
After first cutting off the head area with eyes and mouth, move to the next piece, mark it “A” with permanent marker, then cut. Move to the next section, mark it “B”, and cut. Continue doing this until you have a complete alphabet. This will make it easier for small kids to put the puzzle back together again. Use numbers or letters to make the puzzle.
The same basic design can be done on larger shapes like a giraffe. Use a marker to color black hoofs then mark each hoof “1”, “2”, “3”, and “4”. Go upwards on each leg and mark the next sections “5”, “6”, “7”, and “8”. Follow this pattern until you get to the body portion of the giraffe. Now cut the body pieces, continuing with the numbering, until completed. Do not give the head a number or letter, just legs and body. For some people it’s easier to draw the pieces with tabs, before cutting, to make sure the proper sizes and amounts are allowed.
For older kids you can make the puzzle in the shape of America then cut into “states”. Or, write a famous poem onto the foam with marker and cut into shapes. Or, simply draw a picture that is then cut into pieces.
If you have trouble drawing the images on the puzzles you can use rub-on appliques or other methods. One technique is to use paint to color a picture from a book. Now turn the picture upside down and place it, while wet, onto the foam. After stamping the image onto the foam allow to dry well before cutting the pieces.
A more difficult method of making puzzles, which are not suited for very small kids, is to use paper pictures and cardboard. Cut a piece of cardboard and a picture to the same measurements. You can print a picture out on your home printer then cut the cardboard to the same size.
Laminate the picture using a laminate machine or laminating sheets that you do yourself. This will protect the picture over many years. Spread white glue completely, but thinly, over the cardboard. Align the laminated picture onto the cardboard. If you don’t have a way to laminate you can still make the puzzle.
Laminating the puzzle protects it but it also keeps the picture from wrinkling because of the glue. If you’re doing the puzzle with no laminate lay heavy books on the picture while it dries. Make sure you’ve used the glue sparingly or it will soak through and stick the picture to the book. When the glue is completely dry cut the puzzle into shapes. Small shapes are best and very sharp scissors are needed to make shapes with tabs.
Use a poster for the puzzle picture, enlarge a child’s photo on your home printing software, or choose a picture from a calendar. There are many different ways to make the puzzles, from small to huge, making them suitable for most anyone.