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Smart Mom’s Toy Box: 10 Games for the New Year

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 bottom of the page for a list of cognitive skills and their descriptions.)“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 and 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.

1. Cognitive Development Games for InfantsBaby Playing with Colored Cubes

Livestrong’s Cognitive Development for Infants

An infant’s cognitive development is how he gains intellectual abilities such as recognizing your voice, developing memory, and logical thinking. Games help your baby develop his memory for your voice, the ability to think abstractly, and the ability to identify and name objects around him. Games can also help develop his attention span and the concept of play. The wonderful thing about these games is that once you start, you can play them for years and still have fun together. — Livestrong

This site is great for ideas to help improve your infant’s cognitive development through: abstract thinking games, attention development, memory, language, speech, and social & motor skills.

2. Flip to Win HangmanBoard Game: Flip To Win Hangman

The Flip to Win Hangman is perfect for home or on-the-go. The innovative flipping pieces won’t get lost. This game includes one game board with erasable whiteboard, self-storing marker, and an eraser and is for ages three and older.

From Amazon (prices vary and new and used versions may be available at a lower cost)

From Fat Brain Toys

3. Games for Children with Autism and Sensory DisordersLittle Boy Writing on a Notebook

21 games, toys, and resource websites for autism and sensory disorders

Sensory Integration Disorder (also known as “Sensory Integration Dysfunction” or “SID”) is the inability of the brain to correctly organize and process information captured by the senses. The central nervous system gathers sensory information from the environment. This information is processed by the brain to generate a behavioral and/or motor response, which results in appropriate feedback and the capture of additional sensory information from the environment. If the incoming information is collected, transferred or processed incorrectly, the result is a dysfunctional behavioral/motor response and/or inaccurate feedback. If this pattern continues over any period of time, the input/output process becomes a form of cognitive dysfunction known as “Sensory Integration Disorder.” The ultimate consequence of SID is a lifetime of learning and/or behavioral difficulties. Check out this list of great sites and resources for family or friends with autism or sensory disorders. — LearningRx

4. Rhyming Sounds GamesPictionary board game

From Kaplan

From Amazon

This Rhyming Sounds Game introduces 32 different rhyming sounds. Children should match the ending sound of pictures to the corresponding rhyming object on boards. No reading is required. This game is for one or two players, ages four to eight.

“For children already familiar with the concept of rhyming, this game is a brain tickler: it nurtures that lovely feeling of success while challenging thinking skills. Kids pair up illustrated cards with a set of category boards—each featuring eight colored, labeled pictures. For instance, the card with a nail goes in the section under snail. If they’re not sure, kids can check a black-and-white illustration on the back of the card. Some of the rhymes require a bit of thought (like a boot and parachute), and although the box says the game is for one or two players, the instructions inside are for two or more (and it works well with more). With 88 words in all, it’s a nice serving of language skills and positive reinforcement for beginning readers.” — review by Julie Ubben on Amazon

5. Rush HourBoard Game: Rush Hour

From Amazon or from other Amazon Sellers

From Fat Brain Toys

Rush Hour is bumper-to-bumper excitement that’s jam-packed with challenge. Your speedy red sports car is stuck in the gridlock. Your desire to do anything else BUT be stuck in traffic comes to a screeching halt when you attempt to unsnarl the traffic challenges in Rush Hour and make your “full speed ahead” escape. You are stuck in the middle of four big rig trucks and 11 compact cars. Do you curse, break into a sweat, give up, give in to the pressure? No way! Sliding colorful blocks are slid forward and backward, shifting the vehicle positions and weakening the gridlock…until phew! Freedom on the open road! If you’re in a brain jam—hopelessly halted—there will be no citing for traffic violations. Just dump out the pieces and start again! Better than a brain teaser, Rush Hour is a premier sliding block puzzle designed to challenge your sequential thinking skills. Start simple with Level One puzzles and by the time you hit Level Four, you’ll be hitting the high road with handling expertise in problem solving. Paving the way for whole family fun, this set includes 40 challenge cards from Beginner to Expert. Keep Rush Hour tucked under your coffee table and you’ll keep a freeway of fun at everyone’s fingertips. – Summarized review from Fat Brain Toys

6. Sequence Sandwich Shopsequence sandwich board game

Level 1: From EduPress – Picture Sequencing

Level 2: From The Fun Way to Learn – Simple Sentence Picture Sequencing

From Kaplan

Hungry learners are challenged to put four-card picture sequences in order as they build silly sandwiches. It’s delicious fun to build sandwich sequences. Players collect a topping each time they correctly build a four-card sequence. See who will be the first to put three simple-sentence stories in the correct order and collect a final of piece of bread to win! Students will love building sequence sandwiches with delicious ingredients! Easy directions allow for more learning time. As players move around the board, they choose sets of four-card sequences. Each sequence set is self-checking. Once the player has placed the cards in the correct order, he or she flips the cards up to reveal a sandwich topping. If the picture of the topping lines up correctly, the player knows the sequence is correct. Players keep correct sequences and add the topping to their sandwiches. The first player to correctly solve three sequences and roll a three to get a final piece of bread wins the game! — Review from The Fun Way to Learn

7. Spud!Board Game: Spud!

From Amazon or from other Amazon Sellers

From Fat Brain Toys

Common root vegetables? Simplicity in a burlap sack? No! Spud is a load of hot-hot-HOT potatoes and sizzling swift thinking and rapid reacting! Wild mayhem spills out and reckless hot potato passing begins! Move around the Potato Cards by following the directions on the action cards. Avoid being stuck with Potato Cards. The person with five Potato Cards is out. Toss potatoes to other players quickly and repeatedly. Remember, the potatoes are smoking hot. Move fast my friends or you will get burned. Spud is so rambunctious, it’s every bit as fun to play as it is to watch. Flying potatoes are fun, but it’s the unrestrained laughs, frantic hands, and devilish attempts to gang up on one player that are hard to beat. Spud is not your typical game of Hot Potato. It’s a lively card game with crazy, silly, thinking fun. It’s a fast-paced, interactive game of tater tossin’ fun that incorporates rapid thinking and fast reaction time while building hand-eye coordination and quick mental processing skills. It’s fun for a wide variety of ages. — Summarized review from Fat Brain Toys

8. Tilt Teetering Logic MazeBoard Game: Tilt

From Amazon

From Fat Brain Toys

Slide your way to success! Up and down, right and left—you may want to use a GPS to navigate this logic maze! Choose one of the challenge cards and set your pieces. Using the innovative tilting game board, your goal is to slide the green sliders through the center exit hole. To make your job a bit trickier, the blue sliders must stay on the grid at all times! With 40 challenges ranging from Beginner to Expert, Tilt will have your brain moving in all directions! — Review from Fat Brain Toys

9. Tridio TwistBoard Game: Tridio Twist

From Fat Brain Toys

From Amazon or from other Amazon Sellers

Tridio Twist is a cleverly cunning cubical conundrum…a brainteaser that is distinctive and versatile. It’s a made of handsome, individual cubes attached with twisting, turning joints. Flexible Tetris shapes are satisfying to flip and spin for sure. It’s captivating as you attempt to recreate the cubical configurations of emerald, ivory and black shown in the Tridio Puzzle Book. Scan the two-dimensional designs pictured and set your mind and hands in motion! Modify the three shapes. Consider the color placement. Stack the Tetris pieces and check your progress to bring images to life in three-dimensional structures. It’s all in a day’s play with Tridio Twist. Work your way through the Tridio Twist puzzle book’s 48 visual challenges. — Summarized from The Fat Brain Toy review

10. Tri-Spy GameBoard Game: Tri-Spy

From Amazon

From Fat Brain Toys

Tri-Spy is a frantically fast-paced pattern matching game that encourages visual-spatial development, extends pattern recognition capacity, incorporates problem solving, speeds mental reaction time, and promotes concentration. While playing Tri-Spy, you are watchful. Your mind takes in the colors, the white space, the arrangement of pieces. Your eyes slide back and forth carefully studying the dots on the cards, comparing the color arrangement with the colored pawns on the game board. You spy a move that is the one. You belt out, “STOP “Eureka! My genius eyes and brain have spotted a solution. Stand back and observe.” You casually slide the pawn into position that creates a match to a card. You dramatically pick up the matching card. Keep your eagle eyes focused. You’re a genius after all and you don’t want to look like it’s an effort. — Summarized review from Fat Brain Toys