Making Homemade DIY Jigsaw Puzzles: Piece By Piece

Families are like puzzles. They fit together in a certain way, and if one piece is missing, it throws everything off. – Richard Schiff

child putting together puzzle

If you’re the lucky parent of a kid that loves puzzles, you’re probably afforded long, quiet chunks of time while he or she is putting them together. Puzzles are great for developing analytical, spatial and concentration skills. Making homemade DIY jigsaw puzzles adds manual dexterity and creativity to the list. For a child not so interested in puzzles, making one is a great way to pique their interest in actually doing one. Grab some glue and let’s piece this thing together.

Materials You’ll Need

X-Acto KnifeFor Cutting PiecesGET THIS
Box CutterFor Cutting PiecesGET THIS
Elmer's School GlueFor Gluing Your Picture To PiecesGET THIS
Mod PodgeFor Sealing Your Assembled PuzzleGET THIS
Puzzle Saver Adhesive SheetsAlternative To Modge PodgeGET THIS


1. Art

puzzle snowman rabbit trees

First, you’ll need a picture to turn into a puzzle. A cool angle is to use your child’s own artwork. If they have a drawing or painting that they love, or want to make a new one for this craft — perfect! However, you should make it clear that it is going to get cut up, else fits may be thrown. A picture cut from a magazine or printed from the Internet will also do just fine. In this case, you can use something your kid is into or wants to learn about, and the finished piece might be more challenging to put together too.

For older kids who can read, you could try a unique challenge: Make a puzzle out of a page from a book. Depending on how literate your nerdy one is, this could be anything from a favorite Dr. Suess poem to a page out of Romeo and Juliet.

2. Glue.

mod podge gloss lustre glue

The next step is to glue the picture onto some pasteboard or cardboard. Pasteboard is the thin yet stiff stuff that cereal boxes are made of. It’s sturdy enough, but still easy to cut through. Another option is picking up some foam poster board. Trim a piece to the same size as your picture, and make sure it’s flat and doesn’t have a bend in it. You can use sharp scissors to cut the pieces, but a box cutter or an X-Acto Knife will be a lot more accurate. Obviously, cutting the image and pasteboard should only be done by adults. Use white school glue or paste, and coat the entire piece of pasteboard with a super-thin layer. You should use a glue brush for this so that the glue is spread evenly. Younger kids will need help thinning the glue; they love making pools. Press your picture down, smoothing from one end to the other. For extra puzzle resilience, you can paint a coat of shellac over the front of the picture too. Mod Podge is a good one.

3. Draw

black and white puzzle

When the glue is completely dry, usually 24 hours later, use a permanent marker to draw in the lines for the pieces on the back of the pasteboard. Kids can do this by themselves, and the size and amount of pieces they draw will probably jibe well with the level of puzzle difficulty they can handle. You can guide them in this. The pieces do have to be large enough to cut out, so curb those overachievers trying to draw tiny, complicated shapes. If this is your first puzzle, then it’s recommended you avoid sharp angles and instead draw soft curves. This will make it much easier to cut out in the next step. Don’t be afraid to glue several different puzzles at the same time, that way you have backups in case you make a mistake.

4. Cut

cut puzzle with kids in swimming pool on raft

As mentioned earlier, any cutting should be done only by adults. Using an X-Acto blade, box cutter or a sharp pair of scissors, carefully cut out the puzzle pieces. It’s very important that you take your time, use this as a lesson to teach your children about having patience. As you cut out each piece, place them in a pile for your kids to scramble them up and put it back together. This should keep them busy and keep their little fingers out of the way.

5. Seal The Deal

If you didn’t apply Modge Podge during step 2, then you can smooth it on once the puzzle is back together. Keep in mind, once you apply the sealant you won’t be able to take it apart again.

If you prefer a less messy substitute to Modge Podge, then check out Puzcraft Puzzle Saver Adhesive Sheets.

Finally, it’s up to you what to do next. You could frame the puzzle and gift it to the grandparents or leave it broken up and give it to your kid’s friends at a birthday party. It’s an awesome, homemade present, especially if the child’s art is used.

Cheater’s Version: Use an old puzzle that your kids are sick of, and revamp it. Put the puzzle together on some newspaper. Paint a coat of gesso or white paint over the picture. Then, let your kids paint a new scene of their own. Once it’s dry, all the pieces can be popped apart pretty easily. You can also glue a new picture onto the old puzzle, and just flip it over and cut along the existing piece breaks. Bam! The kids have a new puzzle with a scene about whatever they’re into this week.