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 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. The Geekbox
These puzzles may not have many pieces, but don’t get too cocky as you take them apart, thoroughly convinced that you can reassemble them during the commercials of your favorite Star Trek (the original series) episode. Because if that televised “geekfest” has taught you anything, it’s that looks can be deceiving. And assembling these handsome little fellas is much harder than it looks. To succeed, you’ll need a hefty dose of memory, visual perception, and strategic thinking skills. The payoff is a smarter brain and a computer top decoration that’s both beautiful and brilliant.
The original Buckyballs (reference the scientist Buckminster Fuller and buckyballs for more explanation) is one of our very best sellers. People just can’t resist the satisfaction that comes with snapping super powerful earth magnets into place and then pulling them apart to make endless creations. But now there’s a new stress zapper in town and its name is Buckycubes. With more edges, Buckycubes has even more power and more possibilities than its older sibling. So bend ‘em, fold ‘em and fidget away. Whatever you create, this strong, shiny and ridiculously addictive desk toy will boost creativity, zap stress and fire up your brain’s motor and visual processing centers.
3. Spot it!
Also comes in other variations!
Some people can spot a 90 pecent off designer dress in a pile of discounted rubbish. They make out street signs from superhero distances. And they can identify the rarest of rare birds without even trying. You can be one of those people after a few quick rounds of Spot It! This smart game contains 55 illustrated cards with eight symbols each. There is always one—and only one—matching symbol between any two cards. All you need is a sharp eye and quick hands to take home the title of “Spot It! Master of the Visual Universe.” Win or lose, every player gets killer visual perception skills as a parting gift.
Most days, you can work your way through the gazillions of permutations of V-Cube 5 without your neurons even breaking a sweat. Unfortunately, today isn’t one of those days. Today’s hectic schedule calls for a quicker, simpler, snack-sized portion of brainy goodness. It calls for V-Cube 2. This mini cube boasts incredibly smooth rotation and will boost your visual perception and problem-solving skills just like its bigger, cubier siblings. But with fewer pieces, V-Cube 2 (or V-Cube 3, 5, 6, or 7) lets you work in that much-needed brain workout no matter what else your day has in store.
You are the Mayor of Puzzleville. You’ve mastered the classic Rubik’s Cube a thousand times over. You think solving the Gordian’s Knot is mere child’s play. Come to think of it, there really should be a street named in honor of your puzzle-solving prowess. It’s time to graduate to the V-Cube 7. This smooth rotating cube has six sides, seven rows, 218 pieces, and 19.5 duoquinquagintillion permutations. Can’t wrap your head around a number that big? That’s more possible permutations than the number of atoms in the universe. To solve this brain-boggling wonder, you’ll need spatial perception skills, problem-solving abilities and patience. Lots and lots of patience.
5. Makedo Kit
So long, empty cereal boxes, plastic bottles and old CDs piling up in the trash. Hello, magical playhouse, flying car and anything else your creative mind can imagine. With Makedo FreePlay Kit for One, you can recycle common household items into limitless creations using the kit’s fasteners, connectors and plastic safe-saw. The parts are all reusable so when you’re done with one creation, just pull it apart and make another one. Whatever you decide to make, you’ll exercise creativity and coordination skills while turning trash into treasure and learning about sustainability.
An average mind sees a paper towel tube and an empty box and sees, well, a paper towel tube and an empty box. You, thankfully, do not have an average mind. You have an imaginative mind filled with creativity and wonder. And when you see a paper towel tube and an empty box, you see the arms and body of a robot coming to life. All you need to make it happen is the Makedo Find & Make Robot Kit. This clever kit comes with step-by-step instructions and all the reusable clips and hinges you need to build your very own robot with recyclable materials you find around the house.
6. Chain Game
We have to confess that Chain Game gets some bonus points for coming with a horn. It also gets serious props for working your word skills and testing your creative chops. The object of the game is to say a common phrase using one word from the previous phrase. For example, come up with a phrase using either the word cat or fish and you would quickly say catnip, catnap or swordfish. Keep the chain going to keep your links. But if the horn blows, time is up and you lose a link. This fast, free-flowing game comes with over 200 cards, 36 chain links, and hours of spontaneous fun.
It’s been one of those days. You know the ones. Where you overslept, spilled coffee all over your carefully collated sales presentations and then dropped your not-so-smart smartphone down the garbage disposal—while it was on. Enter the Ogosport Disk: A floatable, portable, durable and flexible game that helps relieve stress by bouncing balls up to 150 feet off mini trampolines. Ogosport Disk provides hours of adaptable entertainment for the whole family while boosting concentration and hand-eye coordination. Bet you could’ve used a little of that before you grabbed your coffee and spilled it all over the aforementioned sales presentations.
Research shows it’s difficult for humans to memorize a sequence of numbers longer than seven digits. But your memory skills are top notch, so you’re confident it’ll be a cinch. Prove it with a game of Distraction. Remember these digits: 7, 3, 6. Now, bang out a drum beat on the table. Okay, remember these numbers: 4, 2. Next, answer this: if you were stranded on a desert island, what three items would you bring? Now, remember the numbers 9, 1, 3—in order with the five digits that appeared before you had to bang on the table and answer a silly question. Remember the sequence right to get rid of your cards and win the game.
9. Hive Game
So, you love games of abstract strategy, but you’re tired of the same old military-themed matches. Well then, welcome to the Hive: a kinder, gentler, board-less game that will flex your brain’s left hemisphere and put your strategic planning skills to work. The object of Hive is to surround your opponent’s Queen Bee with ants, spiders, beetles and grasshoppers. Each bug-themed piece has its own way of moving, resulting in endless strategies and counter-strategies. Sometimes called “nature’s chess,” this highly addictive two-player game is well designed, superbly crafted and never, ever tested on bugs. Hive comes with a handy carrying case, making it a smart travel game.
10. 36 Cube
They don’t call 36 Cube the world’s most challenging puzzle for nothing. Likened to 3D Sudoku, 36 Cube has 36 blocks in six varying heights and colors and only two simple rules: you can place only one of each colored tower in each row and column; and the towers must fit into the base to form a level cube. Sounds easy enough, but this diabolical puzzle was designed to trick and mislead you. Luckily, 36 Cube has six levels of success. True puzzle gods can solve it completely. Us mere mortals have to settle for achieving one of the lower levels of success.
If there were a popularity contest for games, QUARTO! would be class president, prom king and head cheerleader all rolled into one. The object of one of the world’s most award-winning games is seemingly simple: outwit other players by lining up four pieces with common characteristics. But, as with all good-for-your-brain games, there’s a catch: your opponent chooses the piece you play with. QUARTO! not only tests your strategic, visual perception and deductive reasoning skills, this handsome, crafted-from-wood game also looks cunningly cute on a coffee table. Smart.
12. Chaos Board Game
Chaos is a game of strategy based on the principle of sand pile chaos theory. World-renowned physicists could explain the theory with all sorts of astute hypotheses and complicated equations that, admittedly, we don’t fully understand. The gist of it is this: when one sand pile is getting smaller, another is getting bigger. In the game of Chaos, players take turns stacking discs on the board. Once a stack reaches four discs, it gets redistributed in all four directions around it—just like the sand pile. While it may seem chaotic, this is a game of pure strategy, lots of surprises and moments of sheer glee.