By Malissa McClintock, Contributing Writer
In the summer of 2011, a good friend’s Little Man turned one. We had been co-teachers together for several years and shared a love of early childhood education, so I knew that I wanted to make something for Little Man that was personal, educational, and classic. I looked around the web for ideas that I could modify and came across a personalized puzzle. (Sadly, I can’t find the original blog that I read now 🙁 ) Here is the puzzle that I came up with and plan to continue to may in similar editions for friends and family.
I LOVE Melissa and Doug puzzles. They are great for little hands, study, wooden, and classic looking. I wanted to do shapes as the form of the puzzle in order to foster the learning of a one-year-old mind. I also wanted a knob handle so the handles were removable and best for smaller hands.
I found this puzzle on Amazon and grabbed it up.
There weren’t any local consignment shows at the time and my local consignment store didn’t have any wooden puzzle like I specifically wanted to use. It was also a gift, so I thought a new puzzle might be a better idea. For my kids, I would totally find a gently loved puzzle to modify or use one we have when they tire of it.
DIY Wooden Photo Puzzle
- Puzzle and puzzle pieces
- Paper to recover the puzzle shapes
- Photos for under the pieces
- Screwdriver for removing and reattaching the knobs
- Fine point pen or pencil for tracing
- Glossy Mod Podge
- Sharp scissors
I chose to recover the shapes as well as place photos under the shapes to make it as personalized as possible. Little Man’s party was a farm theme so I purchased some farm scrapbooking paper at Hobby Lobby. I then began the personalization process.
1. Trace the removable shape pieces around the photos that you are using under then. Cut them with very sharp scissors to get them as close to that size and shape as possible. Test them to be sure they have a good fit. Once you are satisfied, place a very thin layer of Mod Podge in the puzzle base and glue the photos in place. Miss Moo was 20 months old at the time, so this was a perfect way to involve her in the gift making process as well as give her a little fine motor practice.
2. Allow the photos to dry 30 -45 minutes to be sure that they are securely in place. (Moo went on to bed and I continued on.) To protect the photos from wear and tear during play, cover each one with two additional layers of Mod Podge- allowing each to dry 30-45 minutes in between. You could certainly do more layers but I wouldn’t do any less.
3. Next, trace the shapes onto the paper that you are using to recover them. I placed them all on the sheet to find the best fit before cutting. Afterward, I realized tracing and cutting on the white side of the paper would have been MUCH easier.
4. Cut the shapes out with you sharp tipped scissors. Check your completed shapes to be sure they cover the pieces well and accurately.
5. Remove the wooden knobs from each puzzle piece using a screwdriver. Set the knob and screw aside and check your shape again. Once you are satisfied, repeat the gluing process used to attach the photos to the puzzle base.
6. Once all the pieces have been glued and sealed with coats of Mod Podge, reattach the knobs to them. They are all interchangeable so this should be very simple and quick to complete.
That’s it! Your puzzle is ready for tons of play and love. I love this process because it can be applied to any similar style puzzle, and updated in any way – seasonal changes, learning words, doing math equations – the sky is the limit! Find an old puzzle and try it out. You never know where your imagination can take you!
Do you enjoy making simple toys into personalized gifts? Would you appreciate receiving something like this puzzle for your child?