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A puzzling trend: Old-school pastime makes comeback during the coronavirus pandemic

Click to play video 'Canadian puzzle sales are on the rise due to the coronavirus pandemic' Canadian puzzle sales are on the rise due to the coronavirus pandemic
A toy executive says puzzles have been flying off the shelves across the country since the pandemic began – Jan 21, 2021

Over the past 10 months, people have been searching for alternate ways to occupy their time while stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

Even though two major video gaming companies, Sony and Microsoft, have released two brand new video game consoles within the past few months, many people are turning to more traditional methods of entertainment: puzzles.

Read more: Games, puzzles and loungewear — Some Canadian businesses see sales surge amid COVID-19

The old-school pastime has been making a comeback in a big way since the pandemic began in March, says Ryan Carr, vice-president of merchandising for Mastermind Toys.

“Families were looking to manage screen time, but at the same time they were looking for ways for family togetherness,” Carr says.

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“Nothing quite fits the bill like a puzzle, and we’ve seen puzzle sales skyrocket as a result.”

He says parents are using them to give their children a break from screens, while at the same time providing them with an activity that can help develop problem-solving and motor skills.

Carr says Mastermind Toys’ puzzle sales have more than doubled since the pandemic began. This hard increase in demand has forced manufacturers to meet that market growth. Suppliers seemingly have been able to keep pace with the consumer, although the demand can be sporadic and unpredictable, he said.

“They’ve been racing to keep up,” says Carr. “We have great puzzle supply right now, but it’s definitely been a little hit-or-miss over the last little while.”

Read more: ‘Puzzles are huge right now!’ — COVID-19 pandemic has people finding ways to keep busy

Although parents are using puzzles more and more as lockdown measures continue, puzzles aren’t just for kids. Seniors are using them to keep their minds sharp and their hands dexterous, and students are using them to unwind after a long day of online classes, Carr says.

“It makes me watch TV less, and it keeps my mind on doing more productive things,” says Charlotte Brehl, a Queen’s University student.

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“For me, it’s the best way to get away from that stuff,” she says.

Brehl has been a ‘puzzler’ well before the pandemic, noting that her interest in the activity took off when she started post-secondary school. But once the lockdown came into place in March, her puzzle use has increased dramatically.

“When I tell people that I love to do puzzles, I get a few laughs,” says Brehl.

“Before COVID I used to do puzzles every once in a while, but now I usually set aside some time each night.”

So if you’re looking for an escape from your screens, hopping on the hot puzzling trend might be right for you.