About a year and a half ago, I bought a Melissa & Doug puzzle of the United States. The Boy likes puzzles, after all, and I’m the crazy mom who loves to give my kid educational toys (he likes them, too, you know), so this was perfect. I didn’t break it out until last week, though, partially because I realized upon closer inspection that it may be a little too challenging for a three-year-old (it’s for ages 6 and up) and partially because, well, The Boy has so many toys.

Anyway, The Boy had seen it in my room for months and asked if he could please have it many times. Last week, I finally relented. Despite the email from school (and especially after it), he had been very well-behaved. So I opened the puzzle and laid it out on a blanket in the family room for us to assemble together.

Now, I love this puzzle. It’s got 51 pieces, which is to say that most of the states have their own, individual pieces. (The Northeast is largely lumped together, Michigan and Wisconsin share a piece with the Great Lakes, and Alaska and Hawaii are both on the border.) But because the states mostly have their own pieces, it’s not like a regular jigsaw puzzle. I mean, there are quite a few states that have straight borders!

The Boy and I pieced together the puzzle last week. It was mostly me doing it; after we set up the border, I started with California (where I grew up) and moved east to Florida, then pieced together the Northwest before moving east to New England before filling in the states between. And he watched, and I talked to him about all the states as I placed them on the map puzzle. (Oklahoma, in his opinion, looks like an axe; and Tennessee looks like a knife.)

This afternoon, after a morning full of weeding out my garden bed, he pulled out the puzzle and began putting it together, this time on his own. He place Maine first, then Florida, California, and Washington. And then, using the picture on the box lid as a guide, he filled in the rest.

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I really am so proud of him.


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