Nationally renowned brain training experts Ken Gibson and Tanya Mitchell have created a free list to help parents shop for toys, games, and brain activities that will help improve their children’s learning skills. (See the list of cognitive skills and their descriptions below.)“Our hope is that parents will shop wisely for toys this year, purchasing toys that can help develop the cognitive skills that make learning possible—like auditory and visual processing, memory, logic & reasoning, processing speed, and attention,” says Gibson. “Research now shows that learning skills can be taught—and therefore improved. Brain skills training does for the mind what physical exercise does for the body.”
“A parent whose child has Attention Deficit Disorder, for example, would want to shop for toys that improve attention,” explains Mitchell. “Likewise, a child who struggles with reading would benefit from games that practice sound blending and segmenting.”
Gibson is the founder of national brain training franchise LearningRx, and the co-author of “Unlock the Einstein Inside: Applying New Brain Science to Wake Up the Smart in Your Child” with Mitchell.
Things to Keep in Mind
- A smart toy box will focus on all major learning skills.
- Parents can help their kids get smarter at any age.
- Brain research shows that the brain continues to grow throughout life.
- Parents should help prepare a good learner for school by developing learning skills.
- Parents should take 30 minutes three times per week to work on developing these skills.
- The best way to strengthen learning skills is to use fun, game-like activities.
- Studies show that reading problems can be prevented.
Stocking Stuffer Ideas
Players use the 18 enclosed precision-cut blocks to construct three-dimensional structures corresponding to illustrations in the challenge booklet. It contains 50 illustrations, ranging from simple shapes, requiring only a few blocks to complex structures. As players develop stronger notions of perspective and geometric concepts, the challenges become more demanding. A simple color code allows players to easily track their progress. Architecto appeals to children and adults alike by its captivating puzzles and the exciting but educational experience it procures. For ages six and older. The duration of play is 30 minutes.
Distraction is a game of memory and hilarious distractions.
Strengthen your memory with this laugh-out-loud card game! Players take turns drawing number cards and remembering a growing sequence of digits. Draw a Distraction card and you must answer a quirky question before reciting the numbers in order! Get caught repeating the sequence incorrectly and collect the cards. The first player to run out of cards wins.
Distraction is the perfect way for anyone young or old to improve memory through loads of laughter and fun. For two or more players.
Double Shutter one-ups the classic game of Shut the Box with a new level of strategy and complexity. In brain game parlance, that means your frontal lobe will be doubly happy. To play, just roll the dice, add up the dots and find the best combo of numbers to shut two rows of nine tiles. You can’t shut the tiles in the second row unless you’ve already shut the tile in front of it, which means you have to use your strategy skills to think three to four plays ahead. That’s where the double frontal lobe action comes in! Double Shutter comes in a self-contained, travel-friendly box. The brain specialist says, “Think ahead to form the correct strategy for success and activate the frontal lobe through planning and executive decision skills.”
Iota is a pocket-sized game that packs a big mind punch. Each card contains a color, number, and shape. Your job is to add cards to the grid while making sure that the color, shape, and number are either all the same or all different in each row. It sounds simple enough, but as the grid expands, so does the mental challenge! Along the way, you’ll exercise your visual perception and pattern recognition skills. Iota comes in a handy tin that’s perfect for travel and its teeny-tiny size makes Iota a smart stocking stuffer.
Video: How to play the game
You can play four different games—Repeat the Beat™, Reflex Master™, Rhythm Duel™ or Freestyle DJ™—with Loopz Shifters™. Once you understand the basics, look at “Shifter Mode,” a special way to play that will tie your game in knots.
- Choose a shape! Before you begin, fold Loopz into the shape you want to play.
- Make your choices! Wave your hand through the flashing loops until you hear the choice you want, then wave your hand through an unlit loop to select that choice. After choosing a game, you may also be prompted to choose the number of players, difficulty level, a music track and whether to play in Shifter Mode. Just keep using the flashing loops to hear each choice, an the unlit loops to confirm your choice.
- Just follow the numbered steps in each game description.
- Press the HOME button to cancel whatever game you are playing and return to the Game Menu.
Lovable little penguins hide shining, colorful wooden eggs in a fun new game to challenge your child. Kids race to match colored eggs and collect penguin pals to win. Made of smooth, finely-crafted, natural wood, these penguins are ready to play with you.
In the Pengoloo Game, players must first put an egg in each penguin and mix them up in the center and pass out iceberg scoreboards.
To start play, the youngest player rolls the two multi-colored die and then has two tries to find eggs under the penguins that match one or both colors on the die. If a player finds one matching egg, he or she places the penguin by their iceberg; and if the player finds both matching eggs, he or she places both penguins by their iceberg and plays again.
Finding eggs in the Pengoloo Game is a stretch for the mind and a whole lot of fun. The first player to collect six penguins wins the game! For ages four to eight years old. This game develops color recognition, matching abilities, memory skills, and cooperative social skills.
Perpetual Commotion is a real-time card game that’ll have your hands and mind operating in nanoseconds. This crazy-fun amalgamation of strategy, speed and luck challenges players to get rid of their cards as fast as they can. The first player to empty their feeder pile wins the round and the first player to get 150 points wins. Although Perpetual Commotion seems like all fun and games, your brain will be working hard as the neurons in your prefrontal cortex fire at warp speed. This addictive party game will have your heart racing as you improve your visual processing speed and reaction time. The brain health expert says, “Test your attention to detail and quick thinking as you apply the game rules to the cards you have.”
This game will whip your flig (flip your wig)! Sometimes known as a spoonerism, we’ve renamed this clever wordplay exercise Splickety Lit. Each question has words or phrases that have their beginning fonsonants clipped (consonants flipped…you pet the gicture). The challenge is to answer the Splickety Lit question correctly in the mame sanner. So, if asked who Skuke Lywalker’s father was, you can confidently shout out (spoiler alert) “Varth Dader!” Engaging your memory, word skills, and comprehension speed, Splickety Lit is a winner that’ll keep everyone guessing, from fart to stinish! The brain health expert says, “Speech production and comprehension areas as well as memory centers are thoroughly engaged as you listen to familiar, yet tricky words and phrases and recall facts to answer the questions.”
We love the folks at Blue Orange Games. Not only do they plant two trees for every one they use in the production of their games, they also create ridiculously fun, brain-boosting games like Sumoku that appeal to children and adults alike. Sumoku is a crossword-style game with numbers that helps develop math skills and can be played five different ways. In the basic version, players roll the die and then create rows and columns from numbered tiles that add up to multiples of the number shown on the die. Just add up the numbers on the tiles to get the score for each turn. This game is for one to eight players. The brain health expert says, “Exercise your frontal lobe as you do quick mental math to become more alert and focused during everyday tasks.”
So long, humdrum existence of snapping puzzle pieces into place for a brain workout. Hello, smART Puzzles, a clever spin on the jigsaw featuring overlapping cards that you have to angle just so to create a continuous image. Here’s how it works: smART Puzzles contain 200 3″ x 3″ cards printed with various sections of a well-known work of art. To add to the challenge, each side is printed with a different painting featuring similar color tones. Your job is to flip, rotate, and alternate which cards are on top to complete the puzzle. Along the way, you’ll build visual perception skills and hand-eye coordination, while gaining a greater appreciation for some of the world’s most beloved works of art. The brain health expert says, “This is a great puzzle which tests your memory and visual perception. Arrange cards in the appropriate positions to see famous works of art.”