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Smart Mom’s Toy Box: August 2011

Smart Mom’s Toy Box

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.

10 Games and Toys to Help Increase Your Brain Power

1. AcuityAcuity board game

$15.04 from Amazon

Product Description: “2010 Parents’ Choice Award Gold Winner! 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 but simply 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 2 or 4 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.”

2. BlokusBlokus Gameset

Classics Game

$25.23 (other sellers: $10.99+) from Amazon

Blokus Duo

$13.09 (other sellers: $9.99 +) from Amazon

Blokus To-Go

$12.75 (other sellers: $9.00+) from Amazon

Travel Blokus

$15.10 (other sellers $14.00+) from Amazon

Blokus 3D

$27.99 (other sellers: $21.99+) from Amazon

Blokus Trigon

$29.99 from Mattel Shop

Blokus Junior

$19.99 from Mattel Shop

Product Description: “Blokus encourages creative thinking and has received a Mensa award for promoting healthy brain activity. The goal of this game is for players to fit all of their pieces onto the board. When placing a piece it may not lie adjacent to the player’s other pieces, but must be placed touching at least one corner of their pieces already on the board. The player who gets rid of all of their tiles first is the winner and strategic thinking helps as you block moves from your opponent. Blokus sometimes comes to an end because there are no more possible moves.

Four players make this abstract game especially fast and exciting; however, it can be just as fun for two or three players. Blokus has come up with a number of different ways to play the game to make it more thrilling when playing with less than four players. It can even be played in a solitaire version when one player attempts to place all of their pieces in a single sitting. A game of Blokus typically lasts a 30 minutes. This game includes 84 pieces in four vibrant colors, an instruction guide, and one game board with 400 squares. It can be addictive, even for those not normally into abstract games. Blokus is a catalyst for spatial thinking. Children and adults can play together for hours of competitive family fun.”

3. BrainBoxAll Around the World Gamebox

All Around the World $10.99 (other sellers: $9.00+) from Amazon

Other BrainBox options:

All Around the USA
My First Pictures
U.S. Presidents

Product Description: “This clever new memory recall game challenges players to memorize as many details as they can in just 10 short seconds. Turn the timer over, concentrate on the card, and try to memorize as many details of the picture as you can. Players then roll the dice to determine which question will be asked and quiz each other on what they remember. Questions can be asked like how many stripes are on the skirt? What’s the capital city? Find the name of the famous person shown.”

4. InchimalsInchimals Game

$23.75 from Amazon

Product Description: “Inchimals is a set of twelve beautifully crafted and thoughtfully designed wooden blocks which measure from one-inch in height (the tiny ladybug) to the twelve-inch tall towering giraffe. Children learn math and have fun at the same time by combining the Inchimal blocks with the 100 write-on and wipe-off math puzzles. Kids explore counting, number value and recognition, scale, fine motor skills, language, and imagination. For ages three years and up.”

5. LabyrinthLabyrinth

Board Game

$21.04 (other sellers: $19.49+) from Amazon

Card Game

$9.07 (other sellers: $5.50+) from Amazon

Product Description: “Deep within the twisting maze that is the Labyrinth, each player searches for their own unique treasure. With a constantly changing playing board, two games will never be the same! This unique game has won the hearts of millions of game players for over 20 years. The beautifully artistic playing cards determine the quest for your treasure. Looking for the dragon? How many routes could you possibly take? And most of all, how can you foil your opponents? Each player tries to gain the advantage over the other players by inserting the extra tile to move walls and open passages of the Labyrinth. Block and advance is the name of the game! The first player to reach all of the various treasures and return to the starting point wins!”

6. Pentagopentago board game

Multi-Player Game

$27.95 from FatBrainToys

Solid Birch

$16.99 from Amazon

CE Game

$16.65 (other sellers: $12.00+) from Amazon

Product Description: “Pentago is a fast and fun strategy game that is both simple and sophisticated. The object of the game is to create a row of 5 marbles anywhere on the board. The mind twisting part is that you’ll twist one of the four game blocks as part of your move. This causes the game to dynamically change, making for a fun and challenging game experience, both for beginners and masters alike. Play duration is three to thirty minutes. It takes just under a minute to learn how to play Pentago. It’s a basic five-in-a-row game, with a twist. Pentago is immediately fun for beginners and continues to be fun and challenging for intermediate players. As you become a master Pentago player, the style of play, spatial orientation techniques, and strategies get perplexity complex. Deep logic and skill is required to conquer another master player. Pentago has won the prestigious Swedish award ‘Game of the Year’ in 2005 along with several other awards of excellence.”

7. Quad Dokuquad doku game

$12.42 (other sellers: $9.35+) from Amazon

Product Description: “Quad*doku is a four-letter word challenge using different valued letter tiles to make four words intersect on a grid. The goal is simple; just form as many dokus or other high scoring words as you can on a turn. A doku is a four-letter word with letter tiles adding up to ten. Remember dokus get double points so you score 20 for every doku you make. You’ll soon discover that changing one word on the grid often affects the other words too! Careful, an added twist is that the same letters have varying values! Making four, four-letter intersecting words may seem easy but think again. As the letters dwindle down to a precious few, the game becomes even more challenging! For two to four players ages eight and up.”

8. Scavenger Hunt for KidsKids Scavenger hunt game

$18.47 (other sellers: $14.69) from Amazon

Product Description: “Can you find a tape measure, an ugly shirt and something that begins with the letter C — all somewhere inside of your house? The Scavenger Hunt Board Game is a classic kid’s game of search and find and can be played anywhere. Generates and enhances creative thinking and teamwork. Voted in the Top Five Games of the Year by San Francisco Chronicle 2004. For two to four players.”

9. Square Up!SQUARE UP! memory game

$15.79 (other sellers: $15.04+) from Amazon

Product Description: “Race to slide the squares to match your cube shaker before your opponent finishes! The winner slaps down the frame around the solution. It’s a tremendously fun, fast, and exciting 2-player visual thinking game. Each game board is about eight inches square.”

10. Tri-SpyTri-Spy Game

$11.44 from Amazon

Product Description: “The frantically fast-paced pattern matching game, Tri-Spy is a smart game for a wide variety of reasons. It encourages visual-spatial development, extends pattern recognition capacity, incorporates problem solving, speeds mental reaction time, and promotes concentration. The object is be the first to spot a pattern on the game board that matches one of the 12 cards round the perimeter of the board.”