3D Puzzle Ideas for Adults - Bookshelf Memories

3D Puzzle Ideas for Adults

For those unfamiliar with puzzling, the word itself can conjure an old-fashioned image. Sitting on an armchair completing sudoku puzzles, head-scratching over crossword clues, straining your eyes with word searches, or the more hands-on jigsaw puzzles that may not feel appealing to the more creatively inspired. For that, we say, there’s an entire world of 3D puzzling just waiting to be explored with multiple benefits of 3D puzzles to experience. You likely just didn’t know what you’ve been missing.

Discover 9 Creative and FUN 3D Puzzle Ideas for Adults

  1. Mechanical Puzzles

Miniature model of the UK's largest marble run at the House of Marbles in Devon, UK.

pshab (Flickr) | CC BY-NC 2.0

There are different types of mechanical puzzles. From wooden marble run kits, mechanical clocks in various shapes and sizes (and that tell the time accurately), to DIY musical instruments that actually play sounds. For adults looking to show off their workmanship to younger generations to be inspired to take on similar challenges, mechanical puzzles could be just the thing to spend more quality time together.

  1. Architectural Model Kits

Photo from inside the Madurodam theme park showing some of Holland's miniature landmarks

Slices of Light (Flickr) | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

For international travel lovers with a fondness for puzzling, architectural model kits can be memorabilia that makes splendid bookshelf décor right alongside a photo of the trip visiting a landmark, a travel guide, and similar mementos from their travels.

Almost all famous landmarks the world over have miniature model kits requiring assembly only. From miniature replicas of the Rome Colosseum, Big Ben, and the Osaka Castle, to Dubai's Burj Khalifa skyscraper complete with LED lights to illuminate it at night… If there’s a historical landmark been visited, there’ll be a miniature replica model kit available to buy and start assembling it.

  1. Japanese puzzle boxes

Photo of a wooden Japanese puzzle box partially opened

Ian Dexter Marquez (Flickr) | CC BY-SA 2.0

Japanese puzzle boxes are gorgeously handcrafted wooden puzzles with intricate designs that use a sliding mechanism to unlock them. They reveal secret compartments within them. Until the combination is discovered, the box remains locked. This was the earliest form of passing messages securely. Today's equivalent of encryption. Many of the more complex puzzle boxes can require dozens of moves that must be done in a specific sequence to unlock the box to reveal a hidden compartment. The names of each of the puzzle boxes refer to the design.

Ichimatsu boxes have a checkered pattern. Boxes with a variety of patterns used to create an artistic design go by the name Koyosegi. Boxes with interlocking star shapes are called Kuroasa, meaning dark morning or dark sunrise. For fans of cryptic puzzles, himitsu-bako is likely to be up there among the best you’ll find. With so many artistic designs and the relatively small size of these, they’re a perfect collection piece for fans of Japanese art as bookshelf décor.

  1. 3D Book Nook Kits

Illustration of what a 3d book nook kit could look like placed on a bookshelf with leatherbound books on either side

Image generated by A.I for illustration only

3D book nook kits for adults are another hit among travel buffs as they can capture the essence of cities inside the shell of a book. On a bookshelf, these are miniature escapes that when you peer inside the book cover, it reveals a highly detailed interior of a fantasy world, perfect for completing a fantasy décor vibe in any room or a visual replica of scenes depicted in a book, or customize a kit to create a dark academia décor theme within the book nook. The possibilities are endless! Add an infinity mirror to the rear of the book nook and it can look like an endless alley too. Truly magical.

  1. 3D Crystal Puzzles

A completed 101 piece pirate ship 3D crystal puzzle

Dreamer-In-Shadows | CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

3D crystal puzzles are best reserved for experienced puzzlers owing to the pieces being transparent. Being made of crystal, they can make fantastic décor pieces, especially on a shelf alongside LED book nook kits, or light up architectural model kits as the crystal pieces capture and reflect light, helping to bounce the light around the area.

Like most puzzle types, there are a variety of themes, such as animals like frogs that could be a great accompanying piece placed on the same shelf as a fairytale-themed book nook kit. What’s more is that you can get more light by placing the completed crystal puzzle on an LED light base. These are available as static bases, or rotational bases and can be color changing too.  

  1. Historical Dioramas

Diorama of Shang Life fron the Xinxiang City Museum, Henan Province

Historical dioramas offer an immense level of educational value. For adults looking for creative pastimes that they can spend with younger generations in the family, this could be just the thing. Historical dioramas can be used to teach about historical events, whether famous or explaining family heritage, such as the work that grandparents did on farms using miniatures of animals and farm vehicles, or military dioramas to explain the role they played, or their great-grandparent did.

Some of the bigger brand stores have complete historical diorama kits including “One Small Step for Man” and many types of military dioramas that can be used to create talking points to discuss historical events.

  1. Radio Controlled Model Kits

1:24 scale radio controlled model of a WW2 British gun boat

Dave_S (Flickr) | CC BY 2.0

For the ambitious, there’s not much going to be more satisfying than constructing a model kit from scratch that can sail on a lake. These model kits are usually made of laser-cut plywood and styrene, and come supplied with the electronic components required.  To ensure the model works as intended, an understanding of mechanics is essential. That makes this a great puzzle for adults to share their knowledge with younger ones, explaining why they're doing something and the impact it would have on the model kit were a process not completed properly. A great way to teach lessons in patience and taking your time to do something correctly the first time.

  1. Modular Origami

origami version of nine sons of the dragon

Paper art: Chen Yizhong | CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 TW

For those who like to flutter with paper creations with an Asian flair, modular origami takes paper crafting to another level. Instead of making single objects by folding paper, each folded piece becomes a module that fits into a larger, more complex geometric design. Essentially, it’s creating three-dimensional objects out of only folded sheets of paper. It’s one thing to be able to make a fighter jet that flies from just a sheet of paper, but it’s quite the other to make 3D owls, penguins, and plants from paper that can sit on a bookshelf like miniature ornamentals. You don’t get any closer to a tech-free hobby than that!

  1. Escape Room Puzzles

Group of young adults working together to decipher clues in an escape room

David Hofmann | CC BY 2.0

With all the creative fun of building 3D model kits with themes, there’s plenty of scope for creating codes for others to decrypt. A range of online sites provide printables for escape rooms at home. You don’t physically lock the doors. Instead, you use the idea of an escape room and create your own clues, hide them in logical places that lead to the next clue. As an example, take our Tokyo Alley book nook kit. That could be the first clue with a Tokyo-related question, such as “City where the Fast and Furious franchise filmed the famous "_____ Drift" movie”. From the book nook kit, an origami rose could have the clue “Bon Jovi track, Bed of Roses”. That could lead to a CD tower where the next clue is on the album cover. Add this to the list of funday activities for adults and kids alike. Just make the questions age-appropriate for the group.