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7 Clever Jigsaw Puzzle Tricks That Will Keep Your Mind Sharp

Here's what to do, according to puzzle experts and creators.

Solving jigsaw puzzles is a great way to pass some time, connect with family or friends, and boost your cognitive health. And while the task at hand is simple, many people find themselves at a frustrating standstill halfway through the process. If this has happened to you, you may be wondering how to push through the difficulty and soldier on. The good news? Experts say there are several ways to get back on track. Read on to learn seven clever tricks for solving jigsaw puzzles, so you can finally master the most challenging designs and keep your mind sharp in the process.

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7 Clever Jigsaw Puzzle Tricks

1. Get up close and personal with the image.

white hand putting together map jigsaw puzzle
The Grommet

Before you begin and throughout your puzzling process, you should use the image on the box for reference, advises Steve Vickers, co-founder of the jigsaw puzzle company Cloudberries. This can help you recognize patterns and sort your pieces with a clearer context for what goes where.

"Your puzzle game plan should be derived from the image itself. Catching the small details early on can make putting the puzzle together a breeze," he notes.

2. Set aside a protected space.

Grandfather and granddaughter doing a jigsaw puzzle together at the table

DeDe Bailey, designer and founder of The Puzzle Table, says that having a well-lit, designated space for puzzling will cut down on frustration and lost pieces.

"Nothing is worse than trying to work a puzzle without adequate space to spread out the pieces that are sorted," says Bailey. "Having ample space for the puzzle frame along with extra space for pieces makes for an easier experience when working a jigsaw puzzle. The more pieces you are able to view, the easier it is to find pieces."

Bailey adds that children and pets are the most common culprits behind lost puzzle pieces, so she recommends covering your puzzle any time you're not working on it.

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3. Use a puzzle board.

young white couple doing jigsaw puzzle on floor
Shutterstock/Budimir Jevtic

Using a puzzle board can also help prevent missing pieces and disorganization, says Elena Essex, founder of Elena Essex Puzzles.

"We always prefer using a specialist puzzle board, with felt laying boards included, over smaller trays or dishes that you might have lying around the house, as it means you can see all the puzzle pieces face up and they don't get knocked or turned over," she tells Best Life. "Our first puzzle on a puzzle board was a game changer‒we'll never go back!"

4. Sort your pieces by color and design.

Woman Solving a Puzzle

Next, you'll want to organize the pieces. "This might seem like a no-brainer, but there are tricks to make sorting your pieces even more efficient, speeding up the whole puzzle-solving process," says Vickers.

The puzzle expert suggests getting started by turning over all of the pieces so you can see the details on them before sorting by color, patterns, and design features.

"You can lay them out in rows and columns or go piece-by-piece as you pull them out of the box," he says. "If you're aiming to finish a puzzle fast, you'll want to sort out your pieces early on. With a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle for adults, there will be lots of exciting details that add a layer of challenge, but that's why you need to be super observant to avoid wasting time," Vickers adds.

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5. Build the frame first.

man and boy doing puzzle together, ways to feel amazing

You can then proceed to identify all of the edge and corner pieces, which will be flat on one or two sides.

"This helps you build the classic 'frame' which usually makes the rest a piece of cake! If the box provides the puzzle dimensions, use that info to help figure out how the border looks and fast track the process," says Vickers.

6. Tackle one section at a time.

happy parents and daughter connecting puzzle pieces at table

Another key strategy for solving jigsaw puzzles is to focus on one section at a time, beginning with the most identifiable images and building out from there.

"With your border set and pieces sorted, you can start building off the border to fill out different sections. If the puzzle has clear-cut sections, it might be fastest to build each little image in sequence," suggests Vickers. "Start with pieces or images that pop, like those with text or faces. Once you've finished these sections, you can place them in their spots within the border and then fill in the backdrop."

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7. Keep the fun alive.

Family doing puzzle together

Puzzles can either be a relaxing pastime or a source of frustration, depending on your approach.

"Regardless of if you're aiming for a world record or just testing your limits, trying to finish a puzzle quickly can sometimes lead to puzzle fatigue," says Vickers. "Listen to your favorite tunes, podcasts, or audiobooks to keep the momentum going (but remember to choose your playlist before you start puzzling!).

"To prevent getting overwhelmed and losing track, switch up your tasks! Focus on one small target at a time like completing the border, building each section, and sorting by details," Vickers adds.

Jodi Jill, a professional puzzle maker and founder of National Puzzle Day, says that taking breaks will help your momentum.

"If I get stumped, I use my five-minute rule. I walk away for five minutes and do something else, completely unrelated to my jigsaw and then I come back. That fresh look gives me a jump start to finding overlooked pieces. Otherwise, it would have been five minutes of frustration," she tells Best Life.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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