Go Ask Mom

Gift Ideas: Games to help build kids' brain skills

Posted November 19, 2012

In addition to our Made by Mom Gift Guide, I'll be featuring gift ideas from local businesses over the next few weeks.

First up is Erin Whiteley, center director at the Raleigh LearningRx Brain Training Center. The center offers programs for kids and adults that help them build their cognitive ability.

The center uses its own proprietary games to help clients "get smarter" by training the brain. Programs focus, in part, on the big brain skills needed for learning or work. They are speed; attention; visual processing (important for comprehension and math); memory; auditory processing (needed for reading and spelling); and logic and reasoning (needed for science, math, and problem solving).

And one of the best ways to to build those kind of skills is by playing fun, game-like activities with your kids on a regular basis. LearningRX recommends 30 minutes, three times a week.

Here are popular games that Whiteley recommends for building brain skills, along with her descriptions. I'm sure at least one of these will end up under the tree for my seven-year-old.

  • Blink!: A fast-paced, 2 to 3 player card game that builds processing speed, visual processing, working memory, and selective attention! You can find Blink! At Target or Wal-Mart for about $5. It’s great for any age – there’s no reading required (I’ve played with four year olds, who loved it), but it’s fast paced, so competitive teens and adults like it too! I had a 42-year-old student once who got it on his way home from one of our sessions when I introduced it to him. He came in the next time “scolding” me – he and his wife had been up until after midnight the night before in a Blink marathon! My 18-year-old son’s girlfriend asks to play every time she comes over to our house!
  • Perfection: This standby has been around for quite some time. I remember it from when I was a kid! Who knew it builds long-term memory, planning (part of logic and reasoning), selective attention, short term memory, and visual processing.
  • Simon: Another old favorite that packs a punch. Simon helps build logic and reasoning, executive processing, processing speed, selective attention, short-term memory, sustained attention, and visual processing.

Whiteley recommends these newer games as well:

  • Stomple: A board game with marbles that builds logic and reasoning, attention, and visualization
  • Rory’s Story Cubes: A creative story-generator for all imaginations! Builds logic and reasoning, visual processing, and problem solving
  • Dance, Dance Revolution: There are several variations of this popular game now. Not only do kids get up and moving (getting that blood pumping and oxygen to the brain!), it also strengthens auditory processing, logic and reasoning, processing speed, selective attention, and visual processing.
  • Qwirkle Cubes: A favorite in our waiting room! Builds skill in visual perception and discrimination, logic and reasoning, pattern recognition, and attention to detail. We’ve seen kids come up with pretty creative variations on the game, as well as using the cubes to create all sorts of patterns, messages, and images.

Raleigh LearningRX is at 8305 Six Forks Rd. in north Raleigh.

For more holiday ideas, go to Go Ask Mom's Holiday Central and WRAL.com's Holiday Guide.

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