For Christmas, I got my older kids some GeoPuzzles in addition to the other things they asked for. We love puzzles as a family but haven't done any for a while despite the fact we have an entire cabinet in the basement stuffed full of them. A few years ago, a relative bought us a puzzle of the world with one piece for each country, plus one for each U.S. state, and about 500 ocean pieces. It was simultaneously horrific and wonderful.
While Christmas shopping online, I found puzzles for each continent, which seemed more fun than taking on the whole world all at once. I started to buy just two - Africa and North America. My husband travels to Africa for work quite often, and I'm never really sure exactly where he is. Our school district will test my son on his knowledge of all the U.S. states the first week or so of school in 5th grade. Eventually I bought them all.
After Christmas, my older kids built three of the puzzles maybe twice. They timed each other to see who could build each puzzle the fastest. Then the puzzles were put back in the boxes. The other two puzzles stayed tightly wrapped in the plastic they came in, completely shunned. Bummer.
I told my two year old that those boxes weren't for him and directed him toward his wooden puzzles. Being a typical two year old, he became obsessed with doing the puzzles that weren't for him. One day I gave in. We busted the shrink wrap off of the South America puzzle, which includes Central America too. We built it. He destroyed it. We built it again. Destroyed again. Etc. After working this puzzle about ten times a day for as many days, he can identify several countries and can place them on the puzzle where they go. Whenever we get to Panama, we sing the Van Halen song just for fun. He calls Bolivia, "My Bolivia."
The funny thing is that today my two year old can identify countries that my very intelligent high schooler can't. Once my older kids realized their baby brother had shown them up, they were much more interested in doing the puzzles. Thanks to the babes and his obsession with what is not his, my puzzle purchases were not a loss and my older kids are now self-motivated to learn all the countries in the world.