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Shaped Puzzle Strategy for Beginners

Throughout December, I completed seven puzzle advent calendars. One of them was Gibsons, which has shaped puzzles. I had several messages on Instagram and TikTok asking how I did the shaped puzzles. So today I'm going to go through my shaped puzzle strategy for smaller piece count puzzles with Dejco Whale (150 pieces) and Madd Capp's I Am Lil' Bumble Bee

I decided to start with Dejco Whale because it looked easier than I Am Lil' Bumble Bee (and after doing both, I was right!). After taking the pieces out of the box and flipping them over, I took a few minutes to sort the pieces into piles based on the details on each piece. I ended up with 17 little piles, which essentially created 17 mini puzzles. 

I did not worry about separating edge pieces. When it comes to shaped puzzles, it is often easier not to do the edges first. I've tried! And I almost always end up getting confused. From the piles, I decided to start with the patterns that stood out most to me. At this point, I am not concerned with how the sorted pieces connect with each other. I am just focusing on the mini puzzles I created while sorting the pieces. The patterns that stood out most to me ended up being the whale’s tail, flippers, and water spout. 

I decided it made sense to continue working on the water spout so I grabbed my pile of blue pieces and got to work. 

I continued working on each pile. Again, at this point, I am not worrying about how each section connects together. I am just focusing on each small portion. 

When I got to this point, I decided it was time to start connecting the sections together. I referred to the included poster (oddly the Dejco Whale faces the opposite direction than the image on the box. This was a little odd so I wanted to make sure I note to use the poster as the image reference, not the box). This is where attention to detail is very important. As I looked at the poster, I saw that the turtle was near the fish. The tricky part is figuring out orientation. When looking at the details on the turtle, you can see a fish head as well. 

Once I got that portion together, I used the same strategy of referring to the image and looking at the details on each section to build the Whale. 

Another thing that is helpful to keep in mind when putting a shaped puzzle together is the piece shape. Here you can see the flower pieces have a curved shape. That's a big clue in where they go on the Whale. 

Soon all I had left was a random piece and 2 sections.

Although it can feel a little intimidating at first, the Djeco shaped puzzles are an excellent choice for the first time you try a shaped puzzle. They are also a great choice for children. In addition to the Whale, Djeco also has the following shaped puzzles: DodoLeon the DragonMonkeyOctopusElephant, and Princess Tower.

But what if the shaped puzzle you want to do has trickier edges? Or the pieces are solid colors? Let’s take a look at how to do a shaped puzzle that’s a little harder, I Am Lil' Bumble Bee. As a brand, the only puzzles that Madd Capp produces are shaped. It’s one of my personal favorite brands for shaped puzzles. Because it’s what they focus on, they make them really well. I previously wrote a review about I am Longhorn

Let’s take a closer look at I Am Lil' Bumble Bee. Similar to Dejco Whale after taking the pieces out of the box, I organized them by color. Because there are fewer details, I ended up with 7 sections of sorted pieces: the stem, the main part of the flower, the oddly shaped flower edges, the darker colors on the bee, the wing, the yellow parts of the bee, and pieces of the flower that also have the bee on it. 

Again, I did not worry about the edges as I began working on Madd Capp's I Am Lil' Bumble Bee. I started with the stem because it was by far the easiest section.

Next, I moved on to the bee. For me, the yellow really stood out. I love yellow in puzzles and tend to do yellow sections early on. The yellow was pretty easy to put together because there are not many pieces (only 9).

Darker colors always tend to be a little more challenging and there are quite a few dark pieces on the bee. What really helped was looking at the directions of little hairs on the bee’s exoskeleton. The eye was also pretty distinct because you could see the light’s reflection. Fun fact: “A bumble bee has two large eyes on the front of its head, and three smaller ones on the top… all the better to see things invisible to the human eye!” (Taken from the brochure included with Madd Capp's I Am Lil' Bumble Bee). 

Now we’re ready for the rest of the bee - and the most fun section - the wing! This is where there are quite a few fun-shaped pieces.

Before moving onto the flower, I took all the sections of I Am Lil' Bumble Bee and connected them together.

Now I am on the hardest part of I Am Lil' Bumble Bee - all the purple pieces of the flower. This section was by far the most intimidating because there are just so many purple pieces. But, take a look at the photos below - you can see the striations in the petals. The pieces are also all unique with various sized connectors. 

It definitely takes a little patience and a lot of attention to detail when working on any puzzle that has solid colors. There are enough variations in hue that, although intimidating at first, Madd Capp's I Am Lil' Bumble Bee is not overly challenging.

One other thing I wanted to note about Madd Capp is they have updated their bag to be biodegradable and compostable - I love that!

Madd Capp has several 100-piece shaped animal puzzles. I’ve actually done quite a few of them, including the dinosaurs with my stepdaughter. We had a lot of fun with them.

When it comes to shaped puzzles, the key things to keep in mind are:

The image - are there many solid pieces? This adds to the challenge. Refer to the image on the box or poster if included.

The colors - darker colors tend to be harder.

The edges - Don’t worry about doing the edges first. I was always an edge first person. Now I start wherever feels right.

The details - both the piece shapes and the details on each piece offer huge clues to where the piece goes.

The number of pieces - if you have not done a shaped puzzle yet, try one with a lower number of pieces. This is a great place to start. Shaped puzzles challenge your brain in a totally different way.

I hope I have inspired you to try a shaped puzzle! If you’re not sure where to start, here’s a link to all the shaped puzzles available at Puzzle Warehouse. You can use the filter tool to help you narrow down the list of over 300 shaped puzzles to the type that interests you most. 

Happy Puzzling!

Diane aka Bizzle’s Puzzles

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