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Mini masterpieces: 3D puzzles

Up, down, side-to-side, 3D puzzles literally give puzzling an entire new dimension. From famous ships to staggering structures to fantasylands, these disassembled works of art are a chance to recreate iconic places and objects at home – and have fun along the way!

When was the last time you put together a Jigsaw puzzle? If you’re a puzzle fan, maybe the answer was last night or last week. If your puzzling skills are rustier, maybe years have passed since you last delved into a sea of notched pieces. Whichever group you belong to, or if you fall somewhere in between, here’s an idea that breathes new life into the century-old global pastime: 3D puzzles!

What are 3D puzzles?

In contrast to traditional jigsaw puzzles, which are typically made of cardboard and assembled flat, 3D puzzles are constructed threedimensionally. This means you have to assemble pieces into sections going in different directions: up, down and even sideways. By nature, 3D puzzles are more complex than their two-dimensional counterparts, but the resulting mini masterpiece is attractive and rewarding.

Past meets present

Originally, 2D puzzles were made by painting a picture – of a scene in nature, a building or a design, for example – then cutting it into small pieces with a jigsaw. This specialised table saw contains a fine blade used to cut curved lines in different types of materials. It’s also where the name jigsaw puzzle, first commercialised in the mid-18th century, stems from.

Today, computer software has given rise to three-dimensional puzzles which create a standing structure when assembled. 3D puzzles first appeared in the 1990s and quickly grew in popularity in the United States. Rather than cardboard, 3D puzzles are often made of foam, allowing the pieces to be assembled without glue. Some manufacturers number the back of the pieces to make the task a little easier, should you care to take a peek. It’s no surprise that the selection of structures, scenes and objects is constantly growing. Many are real eye-catchers that you’ll be proud to put on display when completed.

Great brain calisthenics

Studies show that a key way to stay mentally fit at any age is by challenging your brain. Putting together a 3D puzzle engages the body and mind, fostering fine motor skills and mental sharpness. If you haven’t put together puzzles in the past, you may feel hesitant or uncertain at first about your abilities. However, after a little practice you will find yourself growing quicker and more confident. Practice may not make perfect, but it will make you better at it. Plus, your body and mind will thank you.

Strategies for solving

If you’ve shied away from 3D puzzles in the past because they’ve seemed too daunting, here’s some good news. Yes, they can be challenging, but they are really doable if you follow the right strategy. The secret to solving a 3D puzzle – which can range from easy with less than 100 pieces to very challenging with over 2,000 pieces – is to think of it as multiple traditional jigsaw puzzles you put together separately. Later, after all the smaller puzzles are complete, you assemble them into one three-dimensional structure.

Where to buy

Brand-new 3D puzzles encased in plastic are readily available for purchase from online retailers or at local stores that sell games. One especially affordable place to look for puzzles is at second-hand stores or garage sales.

How brilliant: a puzzle competition

3D puzzles are a great activity for cosy winter nights at home – but they are equally fun with a crowd. Here’s a great idea: why not initiate a 3D puzzle competition at your NephroCare centre? You and other dialysis patients could gather together and spend an afternoon puzzling and chatting.

Here are some more expert 3D puzzling tips:

  • First sort the pieces, like you would for a 2D puzzle, by colour or design to identify the different puzzle parts.
  • Next, divide the sorted groups by type of piece (look for edge pieces), also like you would for a 2D puzzle.
  • Helpful hint: Edge pieces can be flat or have square notches.
  • Once you have all the edge pieces, start fitting them together like you would for a 2D puzzle.
  • After finishing one puzzle section (all edges should be smooth or have square notches), put it aside and work on another section.
  • When all sections have been put together, you can assemble them into the final three-dimensional masterpiece. Ask for another set of hands to help you do so, if necessary.