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Smart Mom’s Toy Box: Eleven Games to Boost Family Brain Power

Smart Mom's Toy BoxNationally 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. “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 & 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.

Eleven Games to Boost Your Family’s Brain Power

1. 32 Dice

“32 Dice is a clever combination of strategy and classic chess/checkers play. Roll 16 dice to set up your board…flip to a different number to alter your move and be the first to move one of your die to the opposite side of the board to win. It is a clever new board game…easy to learn, and with loads of challenge for the more serious strategy players. First player to maneuver one of their dice to their opponent’s back line wins. What will your strategy be… to take your opponent’s dice, or defend the back line? A strategic flip of the dice instantly alters the direction and outcome of every game. Addictively fun for players of all ages. Wooden four-piece game board is modular and stores neatly inside wooden box along with game dice.” – Board Game Geek

2. Deluxe RummikubRummikub tile board game

“This is the classic game of rummy tile but done up like no other. It features an elegant all-wood box with a sliding matchbox-style tray for storing all-wood rummy tiles and a wood rack. It’s a great gift for the avid rummy tile player.” – Amazon

“We thought it was high time we had an heirloom-quality edition of Rummikub that would be worthy of a world-class player. We looked high and low and found this beautiful wooden edition of the classic game. In Rummikub, players try to get rid of numbered tiles by creating runs of consecutive numbers or sets of the same number in different colors. But the real fun (and brain training) begins when players rearrange or add to existing sets.” –

3. Mind Your MarblesMind your Marbles board game

“The adult human brain contains between one hundred and five hundred trillion synapses—give or take a few. For the purposes of this game, let’s call ‘em Marbles. Put those trillions of brainy bad boys to use and collect twelve more… play Mind Your Marbles! On your turn, listen to three trivia questions, but don’t go blurting out answers until all three questions have been read… you have to answer the questions correctly and in order to score up to three Marbles per turn. Steal Marbles you need from other players, and be first to collect one for each of the twelve question categories to win. Stretch your memory… Mind Your Marbles!” –

4. Mindstein

“If you get invited to one more run-of-the-mill trivia game night, your know-it-all mind is going to blow a neuron. Let that Einstein-like mind of yours really shine with Mindstein. Rather than answering one measly little question to earn a point like some trivia games, Mindstein asks players to answer five successive multiple-choice questions in their heads and then unscramble a five-letter word based on the letters associated with each correct answer. Shout out the right word, get a smart card. Get it wrong, lose one. The first player to collect five cards that spell S-M-A-R-T wins the game.” –

5. Quoridor and Quoridor Travel Edition

“The objective of Quoridor is to advance your pawn to the opposite end of the board. With each turn, you’re faced with a decision: move your pawn or place a wall to hinder your opponent. The first pawn to the other side wins. But don’t be fooled by this Mensa Select Winner’s simple rules. The strategic thinking, planning and problem solving skills needed to master Quoridor are enough to make corporate takeover geniuses salivate. This fast-paced strategy game will have you playing round after round, learning from trial and error, and developing your strategy as you go.” –

6. Rock Me ArchimedesRock Me Archimedes game

“Archimedes was a Greek mathematician, scientist and all-around uber-genius who discovered the laws of the lever, which in playground terms is basically a teeter-totter. The idea of levers and balance inspired Matt Buchanan to enter (and win!) the 2012 Marbles Game Design Contest with a game aptly named Rock Me Archimedes. Combining strategy, skill and a little bit of luck, the game consists of a wooden board that rocks like a teeter-totter, a special die and 28 marbles. To win, just be the first player to oh-so-carefully get four marbles to your end of the board without causing it to touch the table.” –

7. Sifteo Cubes and Extra Sifteo Cubemarbles brain game

“Sifteo is a fresh, tactile take on interactive play. Use your hands to move, shake, flip, rotate and neighbor your Sifteo cubes – you’ll be entertained and inspired by Sifteo’s unique gameplay. Sifteo cubes have a variety of puzzles and games to exercise your spatial reasoning, word-finding, pattern-matching and other awesome cranial powers. Feel good about having fun through intelligent play. The Sifteo Pack contains: Three Sifteo cubes, a charging dock and AC adapter, Siftlink USB wireless radio (delivers games to the cubes), Siftrunner software (purchase and run your games), two free games and the Sifteo Creativity Kit™, 500 Sifteo points to download more games (a $5.00 value). With the variety of games and activities together with its tactile, Sifteo has the potential to be a complete brain trainer. It requires thinking in a new and inventive way, always a boost to your brain’s neuroplacticity.” –

8. Stomplestomper

“First off, the game Stomple uses marbles. So naturally, we were inclined to like it. But on top of making good use of our namesake, Stomple is also fun to play, looks sharp and does a heckuva job of exercising the cerebellum. The object of this simple abstract strategy game is to outwit your opponents by stomping their marbles before they stomp yours. The player with the last stomper on the board wins the game and takes home the utterly invaluable prize of enhanced critical thinking skills and a beefier frontal cortex. Trust us on this one, that’s much better than taking home a ribbon or a trophy. Stomple tests your logic and reasoning abilities as you study the current state of the game and as you think ahead to plan future moves.” –

9. Tic Tac TwoTic Tac Two board game

“A World War II soldier created Tic Tac Two as a way to help him and his comrades pass the time in a foxhole. It’s like Tic Tac Toe, only better for your brain, which is no surprise for a game created by a member of the Greatest Generation. What makes Tic Tac Two better? For starters, this solid wood strategy game has 25 spaces instead of nine. But the real fun (and brain workout) begins when players pick up the smaller grid of nine spaces and move it around the larger board to either win the game or block their opponent. Play this addictive game over and over and you’ll never see the same strategy twice! “A constantly shifting perspective requires a nimble brain and agile prefontal cortex as you adjust strategy to the evolving game board.” –

10. Turnstile turnstile game

“We’re suckers for games that take a familiar concept like a turnstile and turn it into an addictively fun way to exercise your noggin. Turnstile from ThinkFun is just such a game. Set up your tokens and turnstiles to match one of 40 challenge cards ranging in difficulty from beginner to expert. Then, rev up your forward-thinking and spatial-reasoning skills to move each colored token through the maze to its respective corner. If you hit a turnstile that moves cleanly, you can pass right through. But if it’s blocked by another turnstile or token, then you’ll have to find another way around. This game tests your strategic thinking and visual perception skills as you decide how to rotate the game pieces to the optimal position.” –

11. Visual BrainstormsVirtual Brain Storm  board game

“You’re at the doctor’s office surrounded by sniffling kids (including your own) and you’re faced with a decision: Read another article about Brangelina or the one promising a tighter toosh in 30 days. Then you remember the Visual Brainstorms stashed in your purse and realize that your mind-numbing, two-hour wait doesn’t have to be mind-numbing at all. So you take out the 100 illustrated cards packed with brain teasers color-coded by difficulty. And by the time the nurse calls your name, you and the kids have managed to exercise your logic, spatial reasoning and sequential thinking skills. Brainstorms stimulates several areas of the brain, including frontal, parietal, temporal, and occipital lobes involving riddles, calculation, language, vision, and reasoning.” –