"Let me try!" "I wanna play!" There is something very engaging about these online jigsaw puzzles. Try playing one, and see what happens when a family member walks by and sees what's on the screen. The puzzles vary from easy to ridiculously difficult, and either require the free Shockwave download or a Java-enabled browser. [Editor's Note: There is a more recent version of this column here: Jigsaw Puzzles.]
Wow! Shockwave Jigsaw Puzzle Maker not only allows you to solve their jigsaws, but also to create jigsaw puzzles from your own photos. And after you've created your personal jigsaw puzzle, you can save it locally to play offline (using the free Shockwave Shockmachine download) or email it to friends and family. Now, instead of simply emailing your baby pictures (or wedding photos or vacation pix), you can send them as jigsaw puzzles! There is a fine line, however, between delight and frustration, so use this feature with caution.
Jigzone is the grand daddy of online jigsaw puzzle sites. They have a huge inventory of Java puzzles at all levels of difficulty, feature a new picture daily, and allow you to email puzzles to friends. But what I liked best was being able to control both the number of pieces and their shape. For example, start with their puzzle of the day. Is the sixty-seven piece classic a tad too difficult or perhaps too easy? Click on Shapes and choose your own level of difficulty from among thirty-three choices, ranging from a six-piece classic (preschool easy) to 240 square pieces (for serious puzzle enthusiasts only!)
This collection of colorful children's Java jigsaws is arranged into twelve topics (such as Aliens, Pet Parade and Big Sports.) Many of the puzzle illustrations were created by other MaMaMedia kids. You can submit your own computer-created drawing via email too, as long as you register first. All of the puzzles are a twelve-piece design, and you can choose among four different shapes by clicking Change Shapes. If you need a bit of help, click Hint to get the puzzles pieces outlined on the puzzle board.
Scrambler is a Java tiled-jigsaw that is fun for the whole family because you are timed as you play at one of three levels of difficulty. Easy divides the picture into nine tiles, medium into twelve, and hard into sixteen tiles. Little ones will need help choosing a picture, then pressing "Load" and "Scramble". But as soon as they see the scrambled tiles, they will understand what to do next. Can you beat your preschooler? Those little mouse clickers can be fast!