Orchard Jigsaw Puzzle

At the age of two and a half, my daughter had long since mastered simple wooden peg puzzles and two and three piece jigsaws, so I thought it might be fun for her to move on and try something bigger and more complicated. I didn’t choose this puzzle, but had asked her uncle to get one for her, and when I saw this I thought it was the ideal choice. With the suggested age being 3 – 6 I expected it might be a bit hard for her at first. Personally I think the average six year old would find this a bit too easy, based on the fact that my little one now finds it no problem to complete alone. It’s a 25 piece shaped puzzle from Orchard toys, available on Amazon priced £7.99 at the time of writing, which I think is a reasonable price for such a nice jigsaw. The box says it’s a floor puzzle although I don’t know why it’s called this rather than just a jigsaw, ours is usually done on the floor as children like to space out all the pieces, but there’s no reason it can’t be done on a table or board either. The size is 61 x 42cm, (24 x16.5ins).   

It’s shaped like a house – a doll’s house, although there is little to suggest this other than the figures being a bit simplistic with some stitching detail on their arms. I think my daughter thinks of it as just a house. That’s not to criticize it in any way because the picture is very good. It’s attractively drawn with lots of colour and detail. There are plenty of things to spot that aren’t obvious at first glance, like the mouse under a chest of drawers or the spider in a corner – good for playing I-Spy games when it’s done. My daughter likes to tell stories about what’s happening in the different rooms, and there is something happening in each of them – someone vacuuming the hallway, someone watering plants etc. The house consists of a living room, kitchen, garage, hallway and stairs, upstairs landing, bathroom, bedroom, and a roof with chimney and attic rooms. Its shape makes it a bit different and probably easier than standard square puzzles, although the roof always ends up being done last in our house and seems slightly trickier than the rest, (the word ‘slanted’ has entered my daughter’s vocabulary since doing this). One of the things I like about it is the colour scheme. Each room is a different colour, so for example the bedroom has pink walls, bedding, curtains and knick knacks, the kitchen is very blue and so on. This is helpful when doing the puzzle as you can organise the pieces in little colour piles before putting them together, or ask, ‘can you find a green piece?’, for example, to help things along. The pieces vary in size and shape, I would say they average at roughly the size of a toddler’s outstretched hand. They’re made of thick cardboard so are nice and tactile, just right for little hands. They fit together well, which you would expect to be a prerequisite of any jigsaw, but I have found that’s not always the case. After three and a half months ours is still in very good condition except for one piece which has been deliberately bent at the knobbly bits and another which has been slightly gnawed.

As it’s meant to be a dolls house, I think it’s aimed more at girls than boys, but it’s not an especially ‘girly’ jigsaw. Granted there is a pink bedroom with a ballerina poster and the characters all seem to be female, but there’s also a garage with car and tools in. I see no good reason why a little boy wouldn’t enjoy doing it too.   

The first time my daughter did this I gave her plenty of help as I felt it was too much for her to tackle on her own. Once it was done she was very pleased with herself and began to take it out everyday and do it two or three times, so it’s been interesting seeing her visibly progress from being pretty overwhelmed to being able to do it solo. It wasn’t long before she could put the picture together on her own, albeit with an adult helping to sort the pieces out beforehand. Now she gets the pieces out and knows to turn them all the right way up, she spaces them out and picks the pieces for one room then goes on from there and it’s finished in a few minutes. She no longer gets it out every day, but it’s still liked and played with quite often.   

There is an ‘activity guide’ on the back of the box which is basically a few simple ideas for games like I-Spy, or questions to ask your child whilst doing or after completion of the jigsaw. It’s not exactly a selling point, but it’s a decent enough afterthought and I have used some of the suggestions/questions mentioned when playing with my daughter. The box also mentions that this toy has been carefully designed to develop manual dexterity, observational skills and hand-eye co-ordination; taking credit for the general benefits of jigsaws there I think. There are lots of benefits for children, (and adults), in doing jigsaws; spatial awareness, problem solving, shape recognition to name a few and many people see them as educational toys, which is I think is fine as long as they’re fun.    

Orchard do a wide range of jigsaws for children of different ages. This one comes in a suitably wide colourful box with a plastic carry handle on top and various symbols on the bottom which tell me, amongst other things that it is a British Product and is 75% recycled – presumably this refers to the pieces and not just the box. It also says not suitable for under 3’s. Our box has been sat on and bashed about and is currently aided with sellotape, but still functional.  

Since receiving this my daughter has been given two more jigsaws – another 25 piece one but with small pieces which is far too frustrating for her and has been put away ’til a later date, and a similar sized 35 piece one, also of a house, but which is still a bit beyond her to do alone – she likes her dolls house puzzle the best and who can blame her? It’s a good sized, well made, fun jigsaw, just right for a first ‘proper’ puzzle.