Earlier this year, my wife and I packed our 3 daughters into our minivan and headed out on a road trip from Vancouver to Arizona. The trip was a blast, partly on account of the fact that we planned for the long stretches of highway with movies and games for the kids. I was pleasantly surprised by how much our girls liked the brain teaser type games that we played. For kids, brain teasers are fun, come in many forms and help in the development of cognitive thinking skills. Some examples of fun and easy brain teasers for kids include:
Memory Brain Games
We played several memory games while driving. These games involved all of us - we would come up with a topic such as "name every state in the USA" or "in alphabetical order, name a type of food" then take turns until somebody gave a repeat answer or could not think of an answer within 30 seconds. That person would be eliminated and the game would continue until there was one person remaining. Memory games call upon the observation and concentration skills of all participants.
We were also able to play these types of games at restaurants (while waiting for food to be delivered). For example, I would put 10 random flash cards face up on the table. After 30 seconds, I turned them upside down and asked the person sitting on my left to find a specific card. That person would then guess, and got to ask the next person a different question (ie name all the cards in order, name them backwards, what were the 2 matching cards, etc). This was a nice change on the more traditional 'flip and match' game where pairs are put face down and people take turns trying to find the matching pairs.
The retention abilities varied between the youngest and the eldest, but they all enjoyed the game.
Most people recognize this genre of brain teaser as "find the difference" between 2 similar pictures. Given that I was driving, this was not a good idea. We played "I spy with my little eye something that is ....." where the blank could have been a color, a shape or a texture that could be seen by everybody. The winner would become the next person to pick an object that everybody else had to guess. We also played "licence plate lottery" where the first person to spot 5 plates from other states would win, "punch buggy" which involved spotting VW bugs, or "pediddle" which was finding cars with one burned out headlight.
Language Brain Teasers
Not all games were played out loud. We bought some books for our 7 year old before our trip which helped to develop her literary skills by manipulating letters and words. These games involved word scrambles and challenged the reader to use the letters in one word to spell different words. Age appropriate crossword puzzle books can also be used to improve the vocabulary skills and practice spelling in a fun way.
Logic Brain Teasers
These types of brain teasers help in developing skills for problem solving and also train kids to establish relationships between different pieces of information and can be a great way of stimulating the imagination of children. We played a game where one person thought of a person, place or thing and the rest of the family had 20 'yes or no' questions to figure it out. Our 7-year-old kept thinking about our dog, which made the game very funny for the rest of us.
Sensory Learning Games
Sensory games tend to be geared toward toddlers and younger children. These games develop linkages between vocabulary and touch. For example, take five toys of different shapes and textures and let your son/daughter hold, touch and explore it for 2 minutes. Next, put all the toys in a basket and ask them to reach into the basket and identify the toy based only on touch. Encourage them to describe everything they are touching. Our daughters are a little old for these types of games, so we did not play them on the road trip.
If you have any great tips on other types of brain-games that you play with your children, please use the comments box below to help other readers of this blog.