GeekMom: Fun Advent Calendar Idea: A Holiday Mystery Image Puzzle

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As I have been doing fun advent and countdown calendar ideas this month, I wanted to share a very simple one, that can even be made ahead of time and stored until it is needed.

It takes a 24-piece puzzle and a surface big enough to work it. These puzzles are usually around 19″ X 14″ when done, so a nice desk or counter top will work.

If you have an old puzzle your kids have worked several times, or have outgrown, this is a fun way to upcycle it. If not, there are plenty of dollar store puzzles you can pick up pretty cheap.

Don’t worry about the image, if it isn’t holiday themed. Find a holiday or Christmas image and size it to fit the puzzle, or design, and print it out. This many take more than one sheet of paper to enlarge the image big enough to fit over the entire puzzle. You could also add your own personalized message to it, or design your own image.

older puzzle
Find an old puzzle that is no longer being used, and build it. Easy enough.

Next, do the puzzle. A 24-piece puzzle (or 48-piece is you want a challenge for older kids) isn’t a challenge, hopefully. Once done, use some tacky glue or spray adhesive on the puzzle, and place the printed image over it. Make sure it is smooth over all the pieces.

Paint over the image with some decoupage glue or watered-down school glue and let it dry completely.

Find a holiday themed image and print it out to fit the size of the puzzle. Cover the puzzle with craft glue and smooth the holiday image over it. Use a thin layer of decoupage glue to cover the image. Hint: If the image doesn’t fit perfect, make an edge with some wrapping paper.

Using a small utility knife, gently cut the paper around the pieces. This creates a new puzzle to figure out. Don’t print out a finished picture of it as a reference, because the whole fun of this will be the mystery of revealing the image.

cutting puzzle
Use a utility knife to cut through the image. This may take a little time. Use the back or the puzzle as a reference.

Just leave they unassembled puzzle in a pretty bowl, or decorate the box it came in with paper. You don’t even have to number the pieces.

Each day, kids will pick one random piece and place it on the desk or counter. Little by little there will be enough pieces to start assembling the puzzle, with the final piece completing the mystery image on the 24th day.

puzzle build
Place the pieces of the “mystery puzzle” in a box, and let kids choose one or two pieces from the box each day. Eventually, it will start to come together.

That is all there is to it. No candy or small toys needed. Just the fun activity of discovering what the image or message is. Puzzles seem to come in multiples of 12, so the older kids who want older kid who wants a bigger challenge with a 48 piece can pick two pieces a day.

This also works with the very basic 12-piece toddler puzzles. You could place this out and start it on Christmas Day. A “Twelve Days of Christmas” mystery puzzle may make that easy any post-Christmas let down, and keep the spirit of the holiday season going.

Sometimes, it is the simplest things that are the most satisfying, like finishing a puzzle…or discovering a mystery.

puzzle done
By the 24th day, the mystery puzzle image will be complete.

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