Curriculum Reviews, Homeschooling

Buildings of the World Puzzle: A Timberdoodle Review

When cold weather rolls in, we get the jigsaw puzzles out. Is this true in your home, too? There’s just something about the chilly weather and cloudy skies which makes puzzles especially appealing.

Keep reading to find out 12 ways you can easily teach your kids geography, architecture, history, and art with a single jigsaw puzzle!

[Disclosure of Material Connections: I received a complimentary Buildings of the World Puzzle from Timberdoodle in exchange for writing and publishing this post. All opinions β€” and photographs! ;) β€” are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.]

Buildings of the World is a 1000-piece art puzzle featuring colorful artistic renderings of 50+ famous places around the world, nestled in among whimsical geometric drawings of other delightful cottages, houses, and skyscrapers.

My sixth-grader, an avid puzzler, said it was one of the fun puzzles we’ve ever done. (It’s a toss-up between this one, and the much-beloved puzzle of the human abdomen in all its digestive glory. Yes, we homeschool. How did you know?)

One thing Aveline really appreciated about this puzzle, Buildings of the World, is the fact there are no blank spaces. There are no large expanses of solid color areas to slog through, like big swaths of blue sky or green grass. In fact, there are only two solid-color puzzle pieces in this entire puzzle. The other nine hundred ninety-eight pieces are either marvelously multi-color, or bursting with patterns. For a kid who loves tessellation and geometry, this is a huge selling point.

This puzzle is well-made. Each piece is cut to fit precisely. It’s cheery and bright. But the best part? The true-to-life architecture!

Which famous landmarks are pictured in the Buildings of the World puzzle?

Lauded as an educational tool by both manufacturer Crocodile Creek and homeschool company Timberdoodle — who included it in their ninth grade curriculum kit — Buildings of the World features 54 real global landmarks. Woven into the puzzle’s stunning chromatic landscape are destinations such as

  • the Taj Mahal (India)
  • the Acropolis (Greece)
  • the Coliseum (Italy)
  • the Sagrada Familia (Spain),
  • the Hagia Sophia (Turkey),
  • the Nubian Village (Egypt),
  • the Abuja National Mosque (Nigeria),
  • the Sydney Opera House (Australia),
  • the Empire State Building (USA) — and dozens more.

Personally, I was very impressed to see landmarks from Asian countries represented, too. In addition to iconic locations in Japan and China, kids will also learn about gorgeous places such as

  • the Royal Palace (Cambodia),
  • Angkor Wat (Cambodia),
  • the Shwedagon Pagoda (Myanmar),
  • Tapei 101 (Taiwan), and
  • the Royal Temple (Laos).

To help kids — and adults — identify the landmarks, consult the legend on the inside of the box cover. This guide also lists the exact city where a landmark is located, such as Athens, Attica, Greece for the Acropolis.

How big is the Buildings of the World puzzle when completed?

This thousand-piece puzzle is 27″ x 20″ when completed. The jigsaw pieces themselves are standard size, glossy, and very nice quality.

Pro tip: don’t have a fancy puzzle board or a dedicated table? Use a piece of foam board or foam core! You can purchase one for under $5 at most craft stores (check near the poster boards and glue). We got lucky and grabbed ours at a dollar store.

Using a foam core board as a makeshift puzzle board allowed us to tuck the puzzle away out of reach of Mr. Three when we weren’t actively working on it. It also cleared off the dining room table for dinner; homeschool dads everywhere, rejoice.

Usually, when working on a jigsaw puzzle, we prop up the top half of the box as a reference, as shown above. But one challenge we ran into when completing the Buildings of the World Puzzle is that the front of the box doesn’t actually show the whole puzzle image. Some parts of the image fold down the edges of the box, but other parts of the puzzle image are either cropped, hidden with labels, or simply not printed on the box at all.

Thankfully, the manufacturers did print the entire puzzle image on the bottom/back of the box.

The downside of this, though, is the significantly reduced size. At times, since each puzzle piece is so detailed, we found the 10×7″ reference image too small for easy decoding.

But we’re not easily deterred, so we quickly figured out a hack: snap a photo of the reference image with the iPad, and then zoom on the spots you need to see more clearly.

Even a puzzle can help you homeschool with a global perspective.

As you know if you’ve read this blog for any length of time, I place a very high value on homeschooling with a global perspective. I’ll always pick geography over nature study, and foreign language over even English grammar. Maps and references atlases abound, and international art is a fixture around which the rest of our home decor is woven. (The art in Aveline’s room alone represents China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, India, Thailand, and Vietnam.) This puzzle fits in so well with our constant virtual journeys around the world.

At the core of every study of culture are people.

At a glance, the kaleidoscopic puzzle scene looks like a dazzling international skyline, but when you look closely, amazing little details emerge:

  • a woman walking a dog,
  • a man on a moped,
  • a busker playing violin,
  • a pair of athletes carrying alpine skis,
  • a commuter hailing a taxi,
  • a pedestrian laden with shopping bags,
  • and even the Queen of England.

I love these little microcosms of the world — profoundly human scenes in an urban landscape. It is the people who make a map come alive, after all. The teeny tiny people hidden in this incredibly illustrated skyline remind me God is a global God, and heaven is multicultural.

This puzzle isn’t just a hands-on spatial-reasoning practice: it’s a part of raising kids whose heart mirrors God’s own — kids with hearts for the whole world.

Here are 12 easy ways you can use this puzzle to teach geography, architecture, art, and history:

Of course, learning through play doesn’t need to involve extra activities. This puzzle is enough. (Don’t annoy your child by turning everything into a teachable moment.) But if you have an extra inquisitive child — one who is always raring to go — these activities will be eagerly welcomed. On the flip side, if you have a hesitant learner, a puzzle like this is a great segue into a broader unit.

  1. Compare the landmarks against a list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. How many of the landmarks on this puzzle are also World Heritage Sites?

  1. Make a list of landmarks by continent or country.

  1. Map the location of the landmarks on a FREE printable world map.

  1. Look up the top two languages spoken in each country where a landmark is located. Create a graph.

  1. Look up reference photos to see what color your favorite landmark is in real life.How is it different than the artistic rendering on the puzzle?

  1. What art style is the puzzle? What other art pieces — or book illustrations — can you think of in a similar style?

  1. Draw and paint your favorite landmark, either with abstract or realistic colors.

  1. Look up trivia and facts about the landmarks, then see if your siblings or parents can guess which landmark you’re talking about.

  1. Can you find examples of the most common architectural styles? What about more obscure architectural styles?

  1. Pick two landmarks to research. What building materials were used? Why was the landmark constructed? Who paid for it? Is the building’s function today the same as the original purpose for which it was built?

  1. Make a timeline of landmarks. Which is the oldest? Which is most recently constructed?

  1. Look up the height of your favorite landmark. Draw to scale on graph paper. Include your own height on the graph paper as well.

And last but not least, simply appreciate the art!

This was an especially fun product for me to review, since I love the whimsical draw of window-studded buildings. In fact, I have a whole Pinterest board filled with charming little storefronts around the world. There’s something about glowing windows and irregular rooflines which I find entirely enchanting. And this 1000-piece Buildings of the World puzzle reminds me of an extra colorful slice of architectural aesthetic, kicked up a notch with vibrant chartreuse, fuchsia, and purple.

Buildings of the World is an incredible curriculum resource — you can teach your kids architecture, geography, art, and history with this puzzle — but it would be equally at home on any armchair traveler or globetrotter’s coffee table. It’s just that good. It’s art.

Shop the Buildings of the World puzzle on Timberdoodle

P.S. Don’t miss my review of Dr. Livingston’s Anatomy puzzles!


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