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Smart Mom’s Toy Box: April 2011

Lots of great games, puzzles, and brain teasers come in cubes. Rubik’s Cube. Scruble Cube. Qwirkle Cubes. So this month, we’re featuring 12 different fun, challenging, sure-to-sharpen-your-brain games…all in the shape of cubes.

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 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.

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1. Big BoggleBig Boggle board game

$19.25 from Amazon
(or $15.84+ from other sellers*)

Skills developed:

Auditory Blending and Analysis, Executive Processing, Processing Speed, and Visual Processing

2. Boggle Junior Lettersboggle board game

$13.02 from Amazon
(or $12.90+ from other sellers*)

Skills developed:

Auditory Blending and Analysis, Executive Processing, Processing Speed, and Visual Processing

3. Color Soma CubeCOLOR SOMA CUBE

$9.50 from Amazon
(or $8.49+ from other sellers*)

Skills developed:

Deductive Reasoning, Logic & Reasoning, Planning, Problem Solving, and Sustained Attention

4. MindWare Q-Bitzq-bitz board game

$16.75 from Amazon
(or $16.75+ from other sellers*)

Skills developed:

Auditory Blending and Analysis, Executive Processing, Processing Speed, and Visual Processing

5. QJ Super Square One Puzzle Cube

$13.99 from Amazonrubix cube
(or $11.99+ from other sellers*)

3 x 4 cube with a circular turning center

Skills developed:

Deductive Reasoning, Executive Processing, Logic & Reasoning, Planning, Problem Solving, Sequential Processing, Sustained Attention, and Visual Processing…and Patience!

6. Qwirkle Cubesqwirks board game

$17.90 from Amazon
(or $17.62+ from other sellers*)

Create rows and columns of matching colors or shapes to score the most points and beat your opponent.

Skills developed:

Logic & Reasoning, Planning, Problem Solving, Sequential Processing, and Visual Processing

7. Rory’s Story Cubesstory cube board game

Description:

“This pocket-sized creative story generator provides hours of imaginative fun for all ages. The Story Cubes are nine dice with a different icon on each side. Roll the cubes and look at the face up images. Pick an image that will be the starting point for your story. Beginning with ‘Once upon a time…’, make up a story that somehow links all 9 face up images.”

Single Story Cube

$7.49 from Amazon
(or $5.56+ from other sellers*)

Skills developed:

Executive Processing, Logic & Reasoning, Long-Term Memory, Planning, Sequential Processing, Sustained Attention, and Working Memory

Bundle of Six

$51.99 from Amazon
(or $44.99+ from other sellers*)

8. Rubik’s CubeRubix Cube

3 x 3 Rubik’s Cube

$10.99 from Amazon
(or $7.39 from other sellers*)

The Rubik’s Cube was developed in 1974 in Budapest, Hungary, by Erno Rubik, an admirer of geometry and 3D forms. Now, it’s still one of the best-selling brain teasers!

Skills developed:

Deductive Reasoning, Executive Processing, Logic & Reasoning, Planning, Problem Solving, Sequential Processing, Sustained Attention, and Visual Processing…and Patience!

4 x 4 Rubik’s Cube

$13.79 from Amazon
(or $13.45+ from other sellers*)
Requires moves that are different from the 3 x 3 and is more challenging.

5 x 5 Rubik’s Cube

$19.44 from Amazon
(or $18.49+ from other sellers*)

This is the most complex of all Rubik’s Cube challenges.

9. Scruble CubeBoard Game: Scruble Cube

$18.06 from Amazon
(or $12.95 from other sellers*)

3D word builder cube for 1 to 4 players

Skills developed:

Auditory Blending and Analysis, Executive Processing, Processing Speed, and Visual Processing

10. Sudoku Cube

Sudoku Westminster on a Puzzle Cuberubix cube

$4.50 from Amazon
(or $0.10 from other sellers*)

Deluxe Sudoku Cube

$10.79 from Amazon
(or $5.58+ from other sellers*)

Skills developed:

Deductive Reasoning, Executive Processing, Logic & Reasoning, Numerical Concept and Fluency, Planning, Problem Solving, Sequential Processing, Sustained Attention, and Visual Processing…and Patience!

11. Tetris CubeTetris cube board game

Description:

“This is the 3D puzzle cube that takes the world’s most popular video game to a whole new dimension. Arrange the 13 tetrads in over 9,000 possible solutions. Challenges the brain’s problem-solving skills. Helps develop spatial awareness. With more than 9,000 solutions, this new puzzle is sure to provide hours, days and weeks of non-stop fun, learning and challenge.”

$17.95 from Amazon
(or $2.04 from other sellers*)

Skills developed:

Deductive Reasoning, Executive Processing, Logic & Reasoning, Planning, Problem Solving, Processing Speed, Sustained Attention, and Visual Processing

12. ThinkFun Block by Block

$11.35 from AmazonTHINKFUN BLOCK BY BLOCK game
(or $3.64+ from other sellers*)

Skills developed:

Deductive Reasoning, Executive Processing, Logic & Reasoning, Planning, Problem Solving, Processing Speed, Sustained Attention, and Visual Processing

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* Other sellers have games and toys for sale on Amazon. Prices may vary from what is listed here according to the inventory they have in stock.

Cognitive Skills: What Are They and Why Do We Need Them?

Auditory Processing: to process sounds. Helps one hear the difference, order, and number of sounds in words faster; basic skill needed to learn to read and spell; helps with speech defects.

Auditory Discrimination: to hear differences in sounds such as loudness, pitch, duration, and phoneme.

Auditory Segmenting: to break apart a word into its separate sounds.

Auditory Blending: to blend individual sounds to form words.

Auditory Analysis: to determine the number, sequence, and which sounds are within a word.

Deductive Reasoning: inference in which the conclusion about particulars follows necessarily from general or universal premises; the ability to deduce.

Divided Attention: to attend to and handle two or more tasks at one time such as taking notes while listening and carrying totals while adding the next column without making errors. Required for handling tasks quickly or completing tasks with complexity.

Executive Processing: a collection of several complex, interrelated mental operations or constructs including the allocation of attentional resources, working memory, planning, problem solving, response inhibition, self-monitoring and regulation, and the maintenance of mental sets.

Inductive Reasoning: to make generalized conclusions from particular instances.

Logic & Reasoning: to reason, plan, and think.

Long-Term Memory: to store information and fluently retrieve it later in the process of thinking.

Math Computations: to do math calculations such as adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing.

Numerical Concept: to understand the meaning of numbers and their relationship with other numbers and quantities.

Numerical Fluency: to quickly, efficiently, and accurately apply relationships between number concepts.

Planning: to prioritize information and organize processes into a logical, sequential order.

Problem Solving: to organize information, define the goal of inquiry, plan a series of sequential steps, and apply the steps accurately to satisfy the goal of inquiry.

Processing Speed: the speed at which the brain processes information. Makes reading faster and less tiring; makes one more aware of his or her surrounding environment; helps with sports such as basketball, football, and soccer, and activities such as driving.

Selective Attention: to stay on task even when distraction is present.

Sensory Motor Integration: to have sensory skills work well with motor skills—i.e. eye-hand coordination.

Sequential Processing: to process chunks of information received one after another.

Short-Term Memory: ability to apprehend and hold information in immediate awareness and use it within a few seconds.

Sustained Attention: to be able to stay on task.

Visual Processing: the ability to accurately create, maintain, and analyze a visual representation or picture mentally. Helps one understand and “see” math word problems and read maps; improves the ability to accurately perform mental math and computations; improves reading and comprehension skills.

Working Memory: to retain information while processing or using it.