Ever since I was a kid, I have been a huge fan of puzzles. I am, by no means, a patient person, but there is something so calming and relaxing about trying to figure out how 1,000 pieces fit together to create a picture. New puzzles on the market are taking the traditional toy to a whole new level for all ages. With additions like a fourth dimension, augmented reality, or sound effects, puzzles are keeping up with the changing times and adapting for new generations. Here are some of my favorite puzzles on the market, each with its own little added twist.

4D Cityscape History Puzzle - New York City 2013The puzzles from 4D Cityscape are quite the undertaking, but they are definitely rewarding and educational at the same time. The key to 4D Cityscape puzzles are the fourth dimension: time. Puzzle builders put together a 3-D puzzle of a city, and then add the buildings, structures, and landmarks in order according to a provided timeline, learning the history of the city as well as the layout. This 4-D adventure allows you to explore the cities of the world, including New York, London, Paris, Tokyo, and more. A personal favorite of mine is the upcoming 4-D puzzle of Westeros, that was introduced by HBO at Comic-Con International: San Diego (and that I gushed about, along with other great Game of Thrones products, here). Whether you’re exploring the real world or a fictional one, 4D Cityscape puzzles are an entertaining way to travel—without all those pesky airline regulations.

ravensburgerCurrently in construction on the floor of my apartment is the Colorful Activity at Times Square puzzle, from Ravensburger. Puzzlers ages 10 and up complete this puzzle in the traditional way to start off, but then add in a healthy dose of augmented reality. Via the free iPhone and iPad app, they use the camera function of their handheld device to activate a 360-degree view of New York. They can also be the star of Times Square by projecting their own picture and message onto one of the billboards that they can forward to friends. The puzzle itself is an entertaining challenge (All of the taxis look the same! So many light blue sky pieces!), and the app adds an extra level of fun. The puzzle no longer simply about creating a picture to look at, but one you can interact with as well. While experience a whole new visual reality, puzzlers can also explore audio details, sound effects, and interesting facts about New York City.

3730_fisherprice_ijig_console_hi_res1.jpeg1 (1)Fisher-Price I-JIG Interactive Jigsaw Puzzle SystemFor younger kids, I absolutely love the , from TCG. This interactive puzzle system allows kids ages 3 and up to make a puzzle, play games and music, learn animal names and sounds, and answer questions about the puzzle. Each puzzle has three different interactive modes and more than 50 questions to intrigue little puzzlers. The I-JIG Interactive Jigsaw Puzzle System console includes two 24-piece interactive puzzles, as well as storage for additional puzzle cartridges. The system features different themed puzzles, including Farm/Barnyard, Zoo, Jungle, and Vehicles. This toy is a great take on a classic puzzle, making it an interactive learning experience for the child and fostering parent-child learning experiences.

Overall, I think the real magic of puzzles is similar to that of construction toys: the ability to create something out of little pieces. Puzzles teach new developmental skills such as hand-eye coordination, entertain, and challenge. They can be done on your own, as a family activity on a Friday night, or with friends on rainy day. They come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and are now starting to become more technologically advanced, with games built in or augmented reality features. Puzzles are becoming more than just a pretty picture; they are becoming an experience.

For more puzzles, check out the Games & Puzzles showcase in our July/August issue of The Toy Book.

For more commentary from Ali, check back often. Views expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Toy Book as a whole. We hope that you will share your comments and feedback below. Until next time!