If your young child attends Sunday School, you have probably seen jigsaw puzzles depicting various stories in the Bible. There are a lot of other ways to use almost any jigsaw puzzle to teach your kids about God, His principles and/or His commands.
The best puzzles to use are often those with 50 or less pieces – especially floor puzzles. The pieces are larger in a floor puzzle, but if you can write small and your children can read fairly well, a regular sized puzzle piece will work just as well. (I would avoid those mini-puzzles for most of these activities.) The “picture” side of the puzzle is not extremely important, but I do prefer photographs of beautiful things or “Bible” puzzles. Although it’s not crucial, I just tend to stay away from cartoon and fictional characters if I can because of my goal of instilling the truth (versus fictional) position of the Bible.
Here are some of my favorite ways to use jigsaw puzzles in faith training:
- Illustrating God’s Plan: Find a beautiful, but hard to complete puzzle (not too many pieces though). Don’t let them see the box showing the completed puzzle. As you work together on the puzzle, talk about how each Bible story is a piece of the puzzle to the complete, beautiful picture of God’s plan. Remind them their lives will also be like that. God has a plan for their lives, but they may only receive a piece at a time – and they need to understand if they decide to reject that piece, their finished puzzle may not be as beautiful. If they express frustration at not knowing what they are completing or that it’s too hard, talk about the need for patience, perseverance and trusting God as they go through life. When the puzzle is complete, share the story woven through the Bible of the Fall and God’s plan for the redemption of all mankind.
- Learning How God Wants Them to Grow: Turn the puzzle pieces on the back side. Add a handful of pieces from another puzzle with similar sized pieces. On the back of the complete puzzle, write godly characteristics God wants your child to have. On the random pieces from the other puzzle, write words like “money” and “power” – things the world thinks should be top priorities for growth, but are not important to God. Have your kids complete the puzzle looking only at the back of the puzzle and determining which pieces to use based on the words – not the illustration on the front. As they complete the puzzle, ask them why they chose or rejected certain pieces. Talk about which pieces they struggle to “complete” in their daily lives. Ask them which of the rejected pieces are more appealing to them than some of the “godly” pieces. If you complete the puzzle on a sturdy piece of cardboard, you may be able to carefully flip the completed puzzle and admire the photo. If you do, discuss the “beauty” of the godly person.
- Reviewing Bible content. Ok, I will admit, this one takes some time. To make it easier on you, choose a puzzle with a limited number of pieces. Complete the puzzle on a piece of strong cardboard, then flip it so you can only see the back. Or, if you have the money, many craft stores sell blank jigsaw puzzles. On the backs of puzzle pieces, you can write a Bible verse (one word per piece) or a sequence of events, stories or people. Start with the top left hand piece – even though the picture is reversed. (To complete the puzzle, your kids will need the words to run in order on the back as if they were reading a book – don’t worry about the front orientation.) Break the puzzle in pieces and have your kids try to assemble it looking only at the words. If it is a blank puzzle, they may want to create their own illustration on the front, when it is completed.
- Practicing patience and perseverance. This is the time for those jigsaw puzzles with lots of pieces. If you have a card table, start the puzzle on it so you have flexibility in this activity – it can take days or weeks to complete. Encourage everyone to work on it during those times they would normally be staring at a screen. You can have all kinds of great talks while working on a puzzle with your kids. Once the final piece is in place, talk about the patience and perseverance it took to complete the puzzle. Connect the dots back to living the Christian life, with the reward being eternity in Heaven instead of a completed puzzle.
Have fun with it. Work in other ideas you may have to share God with them as you complete puzzles. If you take advantage of yard sales, it’s a very inexpensive, but fun way to share God with your kids.