Brain training challenges develop critical thinking patterns, build social skills, and are a great screen-free way to engage with children of all ages and abilities.
Whether you play brain training games to pass the time, to make a car ride more interesting, or implement them as a regular exercise to sharpen your kids’ minds, it’s always good to have a few fun games up your sleeve.
Let’s dive right in and learn why brain training games are so beneficial to the growing mind, and which are the best games to play with your kids…
Skills children can learn from brain training games
Brain training isn’t just a way to keep your child distracted while you’re making dinner (although, that does help!). Games that challenge your child’s intellect, also help strengthen:
- Hand-eye coordination
- Spatial awareness
- Analytical thinking
- Creativity and imagination
- Linguistic enhancement
- Social skills
If that sounds like a list of tools you want to give your little one, then read on…
Brain games for young kids
You’re never too young to start brain training, so why not pick your favorites from the list below and make a start?
A simple memory game is a great way to introduce your child to brain training. You can essentially make a memory game out of anything — all you need is some small squares of paper, with images on the back — which means you can continuously evolve and redesign your approach to memory challenges as they grow. If they’re super into dinosaurs right now, why not make a memory game out of the different species? Or, if they’re showing a real interest in fairytales, simply print some characters from popular films for them to match up. Once you’ve come up with a bright idea, place your cards face down and take turns flipping them over to try and find matching pairs.
This is an easy game that can be played indoors or outside, with no preparation or materials required. Give your child a list of things they need to find and then send them off on their very own scavenger hunt. For example, if you’re in a park or your backyard, write a list like “three green leaves, a rock, a flower, two brown leaves” and ask them to go hunting. Not only does this challenge help with reading comprehension and problem-solving, but the act of searching can sharpen their cognitive processing skills, too.
Building blocks offer hours of fun for little ones. By allowing them to work on their shape and color recognition, creativity, and spatial awareness, this game captures their imagination for far longer than most screen time ever will. And, if you have a master builder on your hands, why not take things up a level and truly immerse them in the world of LEGO play? This LEGO worksheet bundle has activities like anagram games, cool historical facts, and coloring in to work through.
Connect the Dots
All you need for this one is a table and a pen, plus a printable dot-to-dot worksheet. It’s a great way to make counting and number lessons fun, and can build your child’s skills in a way that doesn’t even feel like classwork. They’ll love it from the moment they sit down!
Brain games for middle schoolers
As your little ones start to grow into big ones, you need to stay on your toes when it comes to brain training. Here are a few more bright ideas to turn your kid into a bonafide bright spark.
Word searches occupy the mind and get you thinking. You can find many free ones online that you can print for your kids — like this one about sport — and then let them sit back and give their brain a true workout. There are even a few word search generators if you want to customize your own. Tailor it to their school work, vocabulary level, or one of their hobbies, and they’ll never be able to put it down!
This fun logic game only needs a pen and paper. You draw a dot grid and take turns drawing lines to make boxes. Whoever makes the most boxes wins. It promotes critical thinking and spatial awareness in kids, plus it’s super addictive! Here’s a video explaining the rules if you’re excited to see how it works.
There’s an endless number of brain training games based on the art of improvisation that’ll keep the kids entertained for hours on end. The Story Game is a great example and it works best with a couple of people. You build a story by taking turns to tell one word or sentence at a time, repeating the previous line as you do. Usually, you’ll come up with some pretty hilarious stories as you put your recall and imagination to the test like never before.
Human Thesaurus is a great game for road trips and long journeys. One of you picks a word and everyone else takes turns coming up with synonyms. The first person unable to say a word drops out, until only one player is left. It’s then over to them to pick the next word and the game continues for hours and hours!
Brain games for high schoolers
Just because the kids are entering their teens doesn’t mean brain training has to fall by the wayside. In fact, because their skills will be even more advanced by this age, the options at your disposal are even more fun and challenging.
Not Three of a Kind
This game can really be played with any age group, you just have to tailor the difficulty level of the words you choose. One player lists three objects that are all fairly similar to one another. The other players then have to determine which is the odd one out.
An example of an easy game: banana, lemon, strawberries. Bananas and lemons are yellow, so strawberries are the odd one out.
An example of a hard game: brush, seat, stench. While brush and seat are both nouns and verbs, stench is only a noun.
See just how tricky and compelling this one can get?
Who Am I?
If you’ve got two or more players, then Who Am I is a great game to play with teens. Assign each player a well-known person, but don’t let them know who they are! Then take turns asking yes or no questions until you’ve all worked your mystery persona out. To make this brain training game even more topical, you can include figures your child is currently learning about in school. If you want to give it a try, this Women’s History Month lesson plan has a great Who Am I game you can play.
You can play this one online or screen-free with a pen and paper. Start by writing down 16 random letters in a 4×4 square, set a 3-minute timer, and make as many words as you can before the buzzer sounds. You can adjust the length of time to your child’s ability too.
Brain teasers can be as hard or as easy as you like. You can find riddles and other brain teasers all over the place if you want a few starting points to get things moving. These games could take minutes, or they could take hours. The main thing is your child enjoys giving their brain a workout as they try and crack it!
Keep your kids on their toes
Next time your kid complains that they’re bored, you’ll have all these stimulating brain training games up your sleeve. Play them a couple of times a week, and you and your child will notice the difference in the way they think, create and come up with new ideas. It really is the gift that lasts a lifetime.
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