CrazyBusy Tip: The Easiest Way to Stop Losing Puzzle Pieces

My three year-old is a puzzle freak. For Christmas this year, we bought her the Disney Princess: Pretty Puzzles and Sweet Stories book, and she will not let it out of her sight.

Her fascination with puzzles began when she discovered she could put together a wooden jungle animals puzzle all by herself, and then a wooden numbers puzzle. Each one of the puzzles in the Disney Princess book is just 24 pieces, so we gave it a go. There’s a puzzle on each thick cardboard “page,” along with the accompanying story.

Besides teaching my child valuable problem-solving skills and satisfying her fascination with the Disney princesses, there’s one really big reason why I love this puzzle book: The back of each and every puzzle piece is color-coded to make sorting the pieces a snap. Snow White is pink, Beauty and the Beast is yellow, etc.

(At this point in my post, please envision a video of me smacking myself in the forehead.) Now why didn’t I think of that?

I have thrown away many puzzles with missing pieces (left over from when my teens were small) because I never really knew how to organize them. Oh, I would try to — by putting them in zipped plastic bags once their boxes got crushed — but the kids would get into them and the pieces would be here, there, and everywhere. If the pieces were small and indistinguishable, I wouldn’t even know which puzzle they belonged to.

Which leads me to today’s CrazyBusy Tip:

Assign a different identifying mark to each puzzle in your home, putting those marks on the back of every single puzzle piece according to which puzzle it belongs to.

Yes, that sounds like work, but who said you had to do it? If your children are old enough, put them to work — they’ll probably think it’s fun. (Though you should do the same to your puzzles, if you have any.) Give each puzzle it’s own symbol, shape, number, or color. That identifying mark will go on the back of each puzzle piece AND on the box or zipped plastic bag.

Here are some suggestions for marks you can use:

    Colors (use markers or crayons)
    Shapes, like squares, circles, or triangles
    Symbols like asterisks, plus signs, check marks, or even smiley faces

It doesn’t matter what you use, as long as it’s simple enough — and bold enough — to see clearly. A sharpie pen is probably the best tool to use to mark your puzzle pieces. Don’t make the symbols elaborate…this is supposed to lesson your workload and/or stress level.

I hope I just took one little load off your shoulders — I know that figuring out this method was a “Eureka!” moment for me. What can I say? Little things make me happy. ;-) Come back soon to read another CrazyBusy Tip!

©2010 Sally Dinius
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Sally Dinius is writer-in-chief here at, a blog created to inspire and motivate busy mamas everywhere to feel healthy, fit, and in control of their lives. Follow her on Twitter at, and become a member of the CrazyBusy Mama Facebook fan page by clicking here.