You’re a progressive, 21st century parent, right? You buy organic when you can, steer clear of anything with high fructose corn syrup, and even considered cloth diapers (for about 20 seconds). You’d do anything to increase your child’s chances for success later in life – so here’s one of the cheapest and easiest ways to make a big difference in their future: brain-stimulating games. And I am not talking about video games, leap-pad, or iPad apps.
How and why brain games help
“The root of later learning is grounded in strong cognitive skills,” explains psychologist Keith Gibson, Ph.D. “By helping their children build skills like memory, comprehension, logic and reasoning among others EARLY – even before school years – parents are actually increasing the chance of academic success, and likely life success.”
The cognitive skills that Gibson refers to are the underlying skills that make learning and remembering easier. Attention, processing speed, logic and reasoning, auditory processing, visual processing, and short-term/long-term memory are all cognitive skills.
“It’s not about teaching your kids the ABCs,” says Dr. Ken Gibson, who is the founder of the national brain-training franchise, LearningRx. “Processing skills, like sound analysis in fun rhyming games, are much more important because they help successfully think, understand, visualize and create useful associations, which will help with reading later. What good does it do if a child can point out the letter B in a story, but doesn’t know what it sounds like?”
Best of all, honing cognitive skills is something that can help all children because all children have strengths and weaknesses. Making all areas of their brains stronger can only make them more successful in the future.
Brain games you can play at home
For toy store addicts, there are many store-bought games that can help improve a wide variety of cognitive skills. The original echo game, “Simon,” is great for auditory processing, memory and processing speed. It requires children to make connections between what they see and hear, what they remember and how fast they can put those pieces of information together. “Mastermind for Kids” is a new version of an old classic that increases logic and reasoning. For older kids, board games like “Stratego,” chess and checkers can also help with mental tools like planning, memory, comprehension and focus. For very young children, phonics flashcards can be a great springboard to early reading skills, like sound analysis, sound blending and segmenting.
Of course, there are plenty of free games that you can play to increase cognitive skills. The trick is to find several that are age-appropriate and that your kids find enjoyable. Here are a few favorites:
If you find a game or two that really hits home, increase the fun by adding a timed component. Kids often love to push themselves to beat their best time and this too will build their processing speed. Remember, whatever brain games you choose, make them fun for you and your kids.