Jigsaw puzzles and genetics: nature versus nurture

Children and jisaw puzzles

Children and jisaw puzzles

I’ve been pondering this question for a while, so if you have children, I’d love you to share your input. Do you think most of our talents are inherited through our parents’ genes, or are they acquired through nurturing and practice?

Here’s a perfect example of this issue at our house:

– I (the mother) have always loved doing jigsaw puzzles since I was a little kid. If I had lots of time to do anything I want, I could spend several hours a day working on a giant puzzle. The largest puzzle I’ve ever made was 2000 pieces but I’m sure I could go for larger.

– My husband (the father) is far from a puzzle master. He clearly doesn’t like doing puzzles, and when he helps out the kids, I’m actually not sure who’s helping who the most.

– My oldest, who’s almost five, is a little like his dad. He enjoys doing puzzles more than him but sometimes struggles and his frustration can make him abandon his project before completion. With a little encouragement, he can usually get the puzzle done (we’re talking about 48 pieces here).

– My youngest, who’s just over three, is a puzzle wizard. Give him a 48-piece puzzle, provide a little assistance, and he’s done within 5 to 10 minutes. After he’s done the same puzzle a few times, he can do it all by himself and won’t even look at the original image to put it together. He clearly has great visual memory and well-developed spatial intelligence.

Because of my husband’s puzzle-making limited abilities, I’ve always been the one encouraging the kids to do puzzles, guiding them through the building process. I don’t believe I’ve spent more time with my youngest than my oldest doing puzzles. If anything, it’s been the opposite since my oldest is the one who struggles.

So why is it that my youngest can complete a puzzle faster than his older brother? Shouldn’t it be the opposite because of the age difference? Did I pass on the full “puzzle gene” to one kid, but only half of it to the other? Nature versus nurture is the age-old question, even when it comes down to jigsaw puzzles. Well, not just puzzles, since the question can extend to music, art, sports, etc.

Do you think you have passed on some talent genes to your kids and they have developed specific affinities because of their genetic predisposition? Or do you think they’re just good at something because they get to spend a lot of time practicing?

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8 responses to “Jigsaw puzzles and genetics: nature versus nurture

  1. I don’t think those types of things are genetic. I think they see their parents and decide if they want to emulate one of them. Sometimes kids will do something just to win the praise of the parent. Even if they don’t have a genuine interest in doing it.

    I think surroundings (what they see, hear, etc) are the major players in shaping a person.

    • I do want to think that too, but sometimes, I just wonder how big of a part genetics really play. I had nobody to do puzzles with when I was a kid and I still did them all the time. As for my kids, they both have access to the same puzzles but my youngest is the one drawn to them most. Interesting to discover how things happen.

  2. I don’t think it is anything scientific. I think it is just an interest that may get shed off as time goes by.

  3. I think this is a really interesting question.

    There could, of course, be hidden reasons for your second child being better at puzzles, that are down to you, that you just don’t see, like after seeing how the older child struggled more with puzzling, you yourself learned a more effective technique in teaching him. And so he ‘got it’ more easily. It could even be that your elder child helped your younger child to learn it too, despite his own difficulties.

    On the other hand it could all be down to genetics and nothing to do with nurturing at all!! (Like you’ve argued here).

    My belief is that there’s a mix. I do believe we influence our children a lot (as do others they interact with) and that influence can go in different ways, ie you like puzzling so your child sees the enjoyment in them too, or you like puzzles and your child gets bored with them.
    When I think back on my own childhood, and decide on my own parenting issues I quite often find myself doing the opposite of what my mum would have done – her decisions therefore still influence me.
    But I do absolutely agree that nature seems to play its role. I’m not artistic at all, but two of my children are, like their father, who they haven’t seen in years.

    • You see, I think the example of two of your kids being artistic when you know you’re not the influencer but the father has that specific talent makes me think there’s a genetic side to this. Of course, this is a very unscientific conclusion!

  4. Hi, for your elder son you might consider smaller puzzles or easy maze type puzzles to start with and slowly move to more difficult ones. With computer jigsaw puzzles, it’s possible to increase the complexity of the same image which is not the case with physical jigsaw puzzles. That’s why on our website we provide the ability to create jigsaw puzzles of different sizes suitable for kids as well as adults using the same image.

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