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Smart Mom’s Toy Box: 10 Games for the End of Summer

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 & 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. Bop It! BounceBop It! Bounce Game

Bop It! Bounce calls the shots with electronic voice commands that lead players through six coordination-building games. From Max Bounce, which gives you 30 seconds to bounce your fastest to Hang Time, which challenges you to catch as much air as you possibly can, the six skills games will exercise your mind as you concentrate on the commands and build coordination as you bounce the ball off the handheld trampoline. Bop It! Bounce keeps track of your scores to challenge you to keep getting better. And, it’s highly addictive. There, you’ve been warned. Now go be good to your brain.

Brain Health Expert Says:

“Activate the motor coordination centers of your brain as you make quick movements in response to auditory cues.”

2. Brain Box: All Around the WorldBrain Box: All Around the World Game

Put your memory and visual perception skills to the test while doing your world geography teacher proud with Brain Box: All Around the World. This clever memory game teaches players facts about different countries while boosting visual perception and recall skills.

Brain Health Expert Says:

“Read world fact cards to answer questions from memory as you improve your focus and attention to details in everyday tasks.”

3. ColorpopColor Pop Game

Your visual perception skills come in handy for stuff like finding a parking spot right next to the door at the super-crowded superstore on a Saturday afternoon. You can keep yours in tip-top shape (and exercise your critical thinking skills while you’re at it) with a game of Colorpop. Just take turns removing groups of counters of the same color by pressing them in so they slide down and the counters above them take their place. But you have to be crafty so you don’t give away your secret color, because the object of the game is to have the fewest of your color counters on the board at game’s end.

Brain Health Expert Says:

“The occipital and parietal lobes are involved in visual perception, and these centers are activated as you observe color patterns and use these patterns to solve the game.”

4. Gary GoudaGary Gouda Game

Gary Gouda is a mouse. And like most mice, he loves cheese. Your job is to help Gary find the most cheese while navigating his way through a 16-room house. But the more cheese Gary eats, the bigger he gets. And the bigger he gets, the harder it is to fit through some of the doors in his house. If Gary unsuccessfully tries to fit through a door, he has to go to a room of the next player’s choosing and give up all his cheese. So you need to put your mad memory skills to the test to help our cheese-loving little friend remember which doors are too small for him to fit through. And don’t forget to watch out for Kiki the cat!

Brain Health Expert Says:

“The hippocampus (memory center) and visual processing areas of the brain are highly involved as you recall the best way to navigate through the maze.”

5. Gibbon Slackline Set: 49′ or 82′Gibbon Slackline Set Game

Admit it. Every now and then, you sit in your grey-upholstered cubicle, stare at your computer screen and daydream about running off and joining the circus. Well, here’s your chance to walk the tightrope like Barnum. To balance in the air like Bailey. To explore a second career as a circus performer and still keep your day job. All you need is the Gibbon Slackline, two stationary objects (think two trees) and you’ll be walking the tightrope like a pro. Besides indulging your inner circus freak, the Gibbon Slackline will put your cerebellum to work and help improve your coordination, balance and core strength.

Brain Specialist Says:

“Stretch your cerebellum as you balance and find your sense of gravity, strengthening your overall equilibrium and brain. ”

6. Pentago Multi-PlayerPentago Multi Player Game

Generally speaking, we’re not a fan of sequels. Really, did the world need The Next Karate Kid or Speed 2? But in the case of Pentago, we’re big fans of the multi-player version. First, Pentago Multi-Player allows for up to four players. Second, it ups the ante from four quadrants to nine movable sections. Which, according to our staff mathematical geniuses, makes the infinite possibilities of the original Pentago even more infiniter. Yeah, we know that’s not really a word. But it should be. The object of the game remains the same: use your planning and visualization skills to be the first to get five like-colored marbles in a row.

Brain Specialist Says:

“Help stimulate reasoning and planning with added complexity and concentration required for successful game play.” – Neurologist

7. Snatch-ItSnatch It Game

Snatch-It is a competitive and fast-paced word game that challenges players to think quickly while putting their vocabulary skills to the test. Here’s how it works: Place 100 letter tiles face down and then take turns flipping one tile over at a time until a word of three or more letters can be formed. Spot a word and call it out. Or, snatch any word by changing it with one or more letters.

Brain Health Expert Says:

“Demanding of your visuospatial and auditory memory as it stretches you to think beyond the simple. ” – Neurologist

8. StorymaticStorymatic Game

Created by a writing instructor, Storymatic contains 500 cards in a retro typewriter font and portable box. Draw two gold cards with an occupation or trait and one or two copper cards with a situation or object. Then combine them to tell a story. For example, you could draw “oddities collector,” “person with a devastating secret,” “nobody is watching” and “at last, love.” There are trillions of options and just two rules: You can’t kill your character and your character must change during the story. Makes a smart teaching tool, writer’s block cure, creativity enhancer or rainy day diversion.

Brain Health Expert Says:

“Build your vocabulary and exercise your creativity when you play Storymatic, which requires you to think of unique stories from simple words and phrases.”

9. TelegruvTelegruv Game

The old-school game of Telephone gets a hip-hop, techno and rock-n-roll groove. In Telegruv, players draw cards illustrating popular dance moves of various genres and difficulty levels, such as Roll the Dice and The Twist. Crank up the tunes and perform the moves for your team. Then kick back, watch and laugh as your teammates try to keep your moves intact. This hysterical party game will boost your memory and coordination skills. And in the process, you just might invent the world’s next (and hopefully less annoying) chicken dance that will be coming to a wedding reception near you soon.

Brain Health Expert Says:

“You’ll utilize brain areas involved in motor coordination as you fine tune your dance moves as depicted on the cards.”

10. TobblesTobblers Game

It’s a rare thing to find a toy that can be enjoyed by babies as much as by baby boomers. But Tobbles does the trick with a round take on traditional square stacking blocks. Take just one look at these colorful, round, textured blocks and it’s obvious why tots love to stack and play with them while unknowingly building hand-eye coordination. But our admittedly unscientific study conducted in our very unofficial research lab (a.k.a. the conference room) proves that grownups of all ages have just as much fun stacking Tobbles and then displaying them on desks, coffee tables and bookshelves.

Brain Health Expert Says:

“Tobbles is an excellent game for all ages utilizing spatial skills and hand-eye coordination, stimulating occipital, parietal, and frontal lobes. With aging, many people find that their hand-eye coordination deteriorates. Tobbles can be used to improve such skills.”