My toddler loves puzzles. And puzzles are excellent for brain development, so I want to encourage her love of them. She moves fairly quickly through them, though. She started with those big, chunky three piece ones with handles, at one year old. A nice wooden puzzle can be pretty expensive. Buying the next developmental step up every few months is unrealistic for most budgets. The library was a great resource, but we quickly worked our way through the dozen or so puzzles they had there. Not many garage sales and thrift stores had complete puzzles.
We found a fun solution when my middle daughter asked what she should do with the Disney themed Thomas Kinkade calendar that she was finished with, full of pictures she loved to look at. It was no longer useful as a calendar, but she couldn’t bear to throw away the reproductions of those colorful paintings featuring favorite Disney characters and movies. Meanwhile I had been scouring Ebay for cheap and used 16 piece puzzles to challenge my two year old. Light bulb moment!
Puzzle how to
We pasted the calendar sheets to Dollar Tree foam core board, being sure to brush on just enough glue and smooth out any bubbles (too much glue will make the paper soggy). The foam core makes the pieces thick and easy to pick up. Some weight would have made them less susceptible to moving around when accidentally brushed by toddler hands, though. On the next batch I plan to use heavier cardboard on the back. When the pictures were completely dry I used a utility knife to carve them up into the number of pieces I wanted. I created a nine piece puzzle, a 12 piece puzzle, and a 16 piece puzzle, to start with.
I cut the puzzle into wavy lines, so that each piece has a slightly different shape, making it easier to identify where it belongs. My older girls have put together several enchanting Thomas Kinkade Disney themed puzzles, and they know how the flowers bordering the paintings can get confusing to distinguish. So slightly unique pieces make it less frustrating and more fun.
What can be more financially responsible, eco-friendly, and creative than upcycling old calendars into useful, brain power toys? Post what you create in the comments! I would love to see your upcycled puzzles!
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