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Smart Mom’s Toy Box: 11 Stocking Stuffers

smart mom's toy box logoNationally 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 3 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. 36-Cube Brain Teaser36-Cube Brain Teaser Game

$18.97 from Amazon

For ages eight years and older

How many towers can YOU place? Your goal is to place the 36 colored towers onto the puzzle base following two simple rules:
1) There must be one and only one of each colored tower in each row and column.
2) The towers must fit in the base to form a perfect cube shape with all towers at the same height.
Keep trying, see how many towers you can place before YOU get stuck!

2. AcuityAcuity Game Set

$14.87 from Amazon

For ages six years and older; two or more players

Acuity is the clever matching game of quick visual perception where players race against each other to discover and match hidden patterns. Be careful! Your mind’s eye could trick you. With simple rules, Acuity is a game the entire family can play together. No reading required. You simply need the ability to flip, turn, and match! Players race against each other or work together against the clock to find the patterns hidden in the grid. Each time a tile is turned over, the pattern on that tile may be created by combining two or four of the tiles in the playing grid. Featuring 70 durable and vibrantly mind-bending pattern tiles, Acuity will delight all ages while reinforcing the importance of visual spatial skills and pattern recognition.

3. Adams CubAdam's Cubee

$9.58 from Amazon

For ages eight years and older

Adams Cube is a beautiful puzzle with architectural roots that combine six games in one. Each side of this translucent cube offers a new challenge as players attempt to arrange the five puzzle pieces within a polygon frame. Some are more complex than others. Solve one and move on to the next for lasting fun. Ingenious design allows game pieces and instruction booklet to be stored inside the cube for the next round.

4. AmazeAmaze Maze Game

$9.22 from Amazon

For ages eight years and older

Amaze is the hand-held maze game that changes as you play. Once you set up one of 16 different maze challenges, the fun begins. As you follow the path with the attached stylus, you can clear the way by pushing the red bars to the right or left. But watch out! Sometimes the obstacles can’t be moved back, creating a dead end or endless loop.

5. Bop ItBop It! Gaming Device

$14.89 from Amazon

For ages eight years and older; one player

Fun for the whole family, Bop It is like a modern-day, handheld “Simon Says.” After pulling the blue knob to activate the game, just follow the voice directions and get ready to bop it, twist it, pull it, or shout it! But, make sure you do it before the buzzer sounds! Designed for ages eight and up, the game will have you showing off your bopping talent by being the first to “stay alive.” Bop It is the same size of a small, hand-held car vacuum, and is very light (weighing under a pound) making it easy to travel with. Once the game is activated, simply follow the directions before the buzzer sounds. As the game goes on, you will take less time with each turn to complete the actions. So be prepared to “bop it” or “pull it” quickly! Choose to play alone or invite your friends for a game of Party Bop. You’ll all have to use your knees, elbows, and hips to win. Bop It features useful rubber grips around the “twisting” and “pulling” gadgets to prevent it from slipping out of your hands. The bright, primary colors of the gadgets also add to the fun and goofiness of the game itself.

6. Double BananagramsBoard Game: Banana Grams

$24.95 from Amazon

For ages seven years and older; up to 16 players

The Anagram game that will drive you bananas. This award-winning word game needs no pencil, paper, or board and is fast…and fun! Players race against each other to build crossword grids and use all their letter tiles first. It’s great for travel and with 288 tiles, this version of Bananagrams can be played with up to 16 people.

7. InchimalsBoard Game: Inchimals

$24.95 from Simply Good Stuff

For ages three years and older

What can you learn from a rabbit that is exactly four inches tall? If you are a child, plenty! This great math manipulative set will make it easy to teach kids basic addition, subtraction and measurement skills while reinforcing their ability to count. The fun animal shapes, and bright colors grab kids attention so they are learning without even realizing it. Younger kids will instinctively retain math skills, while older children will open up the book of 100 puzzles to really make the most of this set. Each Inchimals box includes 12 wooden blocks that each have a different length, and different animal pictured. At one end of each block, there is a number, and at the other there are a corresponding number of dots to count. Along the back side of each block, there are increments measured out in one inch segments. The ladybug is the smallest block at just a single square, and they go all the way up to the large 12 inch giraffe. The set also includes a spiral bound dry erase book with 100 puzzles and a marker to use with it. Each puzzle is basically a different math problem where children can visually see how the problem works. They notice that rabbit plus bear equals some other animal, and they are able to write the actual numeric value below each animal picture to show the whole equation with the numbers filled in.

To play with your children, just start with simple questions like: Can you measure your shoe using Inchimals? Can you find the total of Ladybug + Tree Frog? Then let the kids discover the answer. They will stack the Ladybug and Tree Frog on top of each other, and then search for a block that matches the combined height of the two. Why, it’s Mouse, of course! It’s a fun visual way to learn the meaning of 1 + 2 = 3.

8. KanoodleBoard Game: Kanoodle

$8.86 from Amazon

For ages seven years and older; one player

Kanoodle is two brain-twisting solitaire games in one pocket-sized case. Using combinations of colored connected beads, students construct colorful designs in two unique formats: tricky 2D puzzles and twisted 3D pyramids. To start, pick a design from the puzzle book, place some of the puzzle pieces into position as shown, and then fill the empty spaces with the remaining pieces. There are hundreds of possible combinations, but only one completes the puzzle. Puzzle pieces fit inside the handy pocket-sized case with built-in game boards, so you can Kanoodle anywhere.

9. Nab ItBoard Game: Nab It

$14.75 from Amazon

For ages eight years and older; two to four players

Getting the most words gives you the last word in this fun family game! Nab It challenges you to link your colored tiles to create words crossword-style and then steal words from your opponents by stacking your tiles on top of theirs. When all the tiles have been used, count up the words showing. If you’ve got the most, you win!

10. Spot ItSpot It Game

$10.48 from Amazon

Seven to 12 years old, two to eight players

The Spot It game consists of 55 circular cards, each decorated with eight symbols. There are more than 50 symbols in all, including images of hearts, snowflakes, dragons, and lightning bolts, as well as words such as Stop, Art, and OK. The symbols are universal in nature, allowing everyone, including young children, to participate in the family fun. Because the game requires quick mental processing, it moves fast, challenging your visual perception, memory, and matching skills. Your group of two to eight players will delight in spotting the matching symbols and agonize over getting beat to the punch by a faster player. In addition to regular game play, this game lets players choose from five individual mini-games with separate rules and objectives. Choose such contests as The Tower, The Well, Hot Potato, The Poisoned Gift, or Triplet and play them in any order. The player who wins the most mini-games becomes the champion. This card game comes with everything you’ll need to play, including a convenient travel-size tin container so you can take this card game to parties or on trips.

11. TiltBoard Game: Tilt

$16.00 from Amazon

For ages eight to 12 years

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!