Children are born to learn: seeking out new experiences, pushing boundaries and solving problems to overcome obstacles they face as they grow. This natural affinity for learning opens up a multitude of opportunities and methods to teach our children as they grow; providing parents with endless and exciting ways to introduce and reinforce ideas to their children.
A large proportion of childhood development is achieved through play, with research showing that using game-based play as a foundation for learning helps consolidate understanding of educational content, teaches children how to effectively communicate and negotiate, and encourages the use of critical thinking in order to apply their knowledge and win the game. All of which leads to a deeper level of understanding and a greater ability to apply the content they have been learning.
Here are four fun and challenging brain games you can enjoy with your children that will simultaneously further their learning:
1. Crossword Puzzles
Completing a crossword might initially appear as an insular activity, but undertaking a crossword together with your child goes far beyond putting the right letters in the boxes. While age-appropriate crosswords establish independent problem solving, choosing a more challenging puzzle as a brain game for your child can bring so many more benefits.
Completing a challenging crossword puzzle alongside your child provides greater scope to expand their vocabulary than if they were to complete the crossword alone, giving you the opportunity to talk about the part of speech the word falls under and provide further clues using synonyms or antonyms to help your child find the correct answer. Furthermore, once your child has successfully guessed the word, you can ask them to provide the definition and to use the word in a sentence in order to solidify their new vocabulary.
Although completing Sudoku will help your child become comfortable around numbers, the main benefit of this brain game comes from a different area entirely.
In order to successfully complete a Sudoku it is necessary to absorb, retain and work with multiple pieces of information simultaneously. Not only that, the child must then use this information to strategise how to complete the boxes so that each number is accounted for, but none is repeated. The concentration and strategy required to successfully complete a Sudoku makes it the ideal brain game for a child who's approaching an age where they will be starting to sit more serious tests or exams.
Or, as we parents might know it: Blackjack. This card game – the aim of which is to reach a total of exactly 21 – involves the card dealer turning over one card at a time, after which the child must decide whether to ‘twist or stick’. If they twist the dealer turns over another card, if they stick then they remain on their current total. The winner of the game is the player whose card total is closest to 21.
This brain game is excellent at not only helping children to develop quick mental maths skills but also teaching them how to use those skills in order to make strategic decisions and win the game. Plus it's incredibly exciting for kids!
For slightly older children, chess is a remarkable brain game that can be beneficial for growing minds in a plethora of ways. The exams that children face throughout their school career not only assess their knowledge, but also their ability to analyse, critique, and apply that knowledge: it is in enhancing these critical skills that chess uniquely comes into its own.
Chess is known to revolve around strategy, and wrapped up within that is the use of problem-solving, logic, memory, and pattern recognition. All of these skills, whilst not directly related to curriculum content within a child’s education, will benefit your child across their school career.
When looking for the best way to support your child in their education, playing fun – yet challenging – brain games offers a holistic way to improve their grades and give them a great start. And the best part is… they won’t even know they’re learning!