12 Mind-Boggling Brain Games to Activate Thinking in Kids

Getting kids engaged in problem-solving or learning can be hard. For some kids, the idea of sitting down and solving a complicated problem can be quite daunting, if not outright frustrating. This kind of aversion can lead to trouble for them when they are older and have to move onto subjects like math and science.

Parents often worry about how to get their kids to engage in problem-solving thinking skills, but it’s actually not that hard to make this process fun for them. There are many great game-based ways to activate thinking in kids, and many of these games are so fun that the whole family will enjoy playing them! You can also opt for online memory and puzzle games from improvememory.org to make learning on the go convenient.

If you are ready to encourage your kid to problem-solve and think in creative ways, this article will give you lots of great ideas to get you on your way!

1. Memory Games

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This type of game is a classic and it’s easy to tell why. Just try playing them with your kids and you will realize how hard it can be to keep track of all of the information that is in front of you turn by turn. Memory card games are the most familiar, and easiest to explain, version of this kind of game.

Kids board game companies also make many adorable kid-focused memory card games with fun graphics and silly sayings on them to help facilitate memory and to facilitate executive function skills.

Another fun version of this game is the Word Train game, which only requires that you and your child, or your child and their friends, memorize a chain of ideas based on a prompt. You can start with “I went outside and I picked up a baseball…”, or another similar prompt, and then have each child or each family member add a new item. Pretty soon the list will be so long that it will be challenging to keep the whole thing straight!

Being able to remember strings of information is a key part of remembering directions. This skill set is very helpful to children who are about to move into grade school as they will have to learn to pay attention to other people’s rules for the first time. There is nothing more bewildering to a child than the first week of school with new rules and expectations if they can’t remember them well!

2. Spot the Difference Games

These are classic brain games and involve comparing two images to see what is different in one versus the other. These games can be paper games but are also included in many online gaming platforms and video game platforms targeted at kids. A great example of an advanced version of this game is the classic Where’s Waldo books.

The advantage to this kind of problem-solving is that it can help your child to troubleshoot problems and catch things that are not safe or correct. This can be great if you are trying to teach them to be vigilant about safety, or trying to encourage them to pay attention to detail for projects related to school. Spot the difference games have also been linked with sports skills and can help children to problem solve while playing physical games too.

3. Puzzles

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This often-overlooked tool for facilitating thinking in children is one of the best tools to help your kid to activate their thinking skills! Puzzles teach a wide array of skills, from hand-eye coordination to fine motor skills and gross motor skills. Shape recognition is a large part of mechanical problem solving and puzzles can teach this as well.

To increase and activate thinking surrounding the puzzle-building activity, you only have to increase the number of pieces or the difficulty of the image. The problem-solving skills that are involved in isolating shapes and images at the same time will activate many useful parts of your child’s advanced thinking skills.

Oftentimes, convenience can be a barrier to completing puzzles for busy families. Who wants puzzle pieces scattered on the dining room table for days on end while a puzzle is completed? But online puzzle games can be completed from anywhere eliminating this obstacle and making reaping the benefits of puzzles super convenient.

4. FlashCards

Another tried-and-true thinking tool, flashcards are often associated with things like multiplication tables, or foreign language learning. Flashcards can actually be used for many other skills, and using them to facilitate recall or images or ideas can help to teach your child to think creatively while also helping them to increase their memorization skills.

If your child balks at flashcards as being part of school stuff and therefore boring, use picture cards or another less intimidating version of this style of game to help them get comfortable. You can also teach them fun little rhymes to help them relate the image with a verbal reminder. Once they realize that this kind of memory game can be fun, they will want to play it all the time!

5. Storytelling Round Robin

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This fun game requires that you have at least three people to play it. You will sit in a circle and someone will start a story. They can choose any kind of story they want. The rest of the circle then takes turns adding to the story and developing it as it goes around the circle.

Add fun variations to make it more challenging by requiring that each person start their sentence with a new letter of the alphabet, or make each person use a basic sentence at the start of each of their turns like, “And then I told Bob,” etc. You can also add variety by making each person draw a card on their turn with an image on it that their sentence must relate to.

6. Mad Libs

This classic game is a fun way to teach your kids about the parts of a sentence while also helping them to use their imagination. Silly stories and funny uses of the words will help your kids to enjoy learning about the English language while also training their brains to use new words.

This game is really good at showing why certain types of words cannot be used in the wrong order in sentences. Kids will learn what verbs and nouns and adjectives behave like when the sentences do not make sense. This is a classic game that is also fun for adults, so you will have just as much fun as your kids when you use Mad Libs to help them to use critical thinking and their memory skills!

7. How Many Can You Name?

This game does not require anything other than the power of your imagination! Ask your child to tell you as many animals as they can in 60 seconds. Change categories as you play to help your child to associate items they know into categories.

You will also find instances where your child does not know the words for certain items, or categories they do not know much about, making for great learning opportunities!

8. Scavenger Hunt

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This is a really fun game, even as a grown-up and your kids will learn a ton of skills from playing it. Simply provide them with a list of items, and make sure that some of them are not likely to be things that your child has seen before. Provide hints as needed to help guide them to the right part of the house to find the required object.

Your child is using analytical skills with this game and they will probably learn some really good research skills as they problem-solve finding objects they do not immediately recognize.

9. Mirror Mirror

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To play this game, you just need some building blocks. Create a wall or pattern and then tell your child to build a wall or pattern that matches yours. This teaches hand-eye coordination and also teaches them to analyze the shapes they are working with to create larger structures.

This kind of game is excellent for teaching your child to follow directions as well, and you can offer up explanations of the most efficient way to create certain shapes or designs if they get stuck. If you have more than one child in the household, they can work on these together and learn to work cooperatively.

10. Crossword Puzzles

It is easy to get kid-friendly crossword puzzles these days, and a book of these handy tools can teach your children how to spell, how many letters are in words, and how to think through the clues that lead them to these words.

Crossword puzzles are a great all-around tool that teaches many skills. Plus, kids enjoy filling in the little blocks and get a sense of satisfaction out of completing the entire crossword. Being able to come up with the words that are asked for is a fun challenge that makes kids feel a sense of pride when they are able to think of the right word.

11. Draw and Talk

You will need at least two people to play this game. One of you is the drawer and one is the talker. The drawer may not ask questions. They simply draw what they are being guided to draw. This can lead to hilarious outcomes that will make everyone laugh.

When you complete each drawing, you can then discuss with the drawer what went wrong in their understanding of the instructions, or analyze where the description of what needed to be drawn could have been better. This game teaches listening skills and problem-solving skills, as well as hand-eye coordination.

12. Uno

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This classic game teaches number recognition and helps kids to connect the order of operations to their play decisions. There is a lot of strategy in playing your whole hand, and kids will learn how to plan ahead and how to think before they make choices.

Uno also helps with color recognition in younger children and the rules are just complicated enough to create a challenge without scaring off younger children. If you invest in Uno Attack, the dispenser shoots the cards out and makes sounds, which is often really fun for younger kids.

12. Tangrams

This is another classic game that teaches shape, color, and spatial recognition. Tangrams are colorful blocks that can be arranged in the included tray into shapes and designs. This is a great way to teach your child how to recognize geometric shapes and how to make large shapes from smaller shapes.

This is another great tool to teach your child to match the patterns provided in the example book. You can increase the difficulty of the patterns as you go farther into the included book, or make your own patterns up as well. Later in life, these skills will lead to excellent problem-solving skills and will assist your child with geometry and trigonometry.

Activating Thinking and Problem Solving is Easy

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The use of games to facilitate memory and skills growth is a major part of psychology and also a tool that is used by educators every day. As a parent, the struggle of asking your child to engage in challenging tasks can easily be lessened by sharing any of the games in this list with them.

Children are always motivated to take part in things they find to be fun, and linking problem-solving with fun is a great way to help your kid to grow into a competent student and an adult who can find the answers to their needs every day without having to struggle.