How important is your brain?
It's the control center for the entire body.
That makes it the most important part of the body deserving of great care and attention.
Did you know the brain is like a muscle? The more you exercise it, the stronger it will be!
We want our kids to be physically strong. We want our kids to be emotionally strong. We educate them because we want them to be intellectually strong. We put them to bed to help them build healthy sleep habits so they will thrive and grow.
We can also help them build brain-healthy lifetime habits by intentionally focusing on their brain development while they are young.
Harvard and Johns Hopkins trained Neurologist, Dr. Majid Fotuhi, M.D, Ph.D, has researched the effect of intentional, vigorous strategy and memory practice.
He found that regular mental practices that challenge the brain create new synapses that actually grow the brain, especially the part of the brain called the hippocampus.
The hippocampus is a complex brain structure that plays a major role in memory and learning.
In his book, Boost Your Brain, Dr. Fotuhi says "Interventions can selectively strengthen and enlarge different parts of the brain, so much that improvements can be seen on a MRI with the naked eye."
Why is this the case?
Dr. Fotuhi says that when it comes to learning a new task, "you are literally reshaping parts of your brain responsible for that mental task and improving the way it communicates with other parts of the brain."
"Cognitive stimulation increases blood flow to the brain" and promotes "survival of new neurons in the hippocampus," which aide in the "expansion of synapses everywhere."
This is incredible news for everyone!
No matter our age, we can improve our memory and improve our response time for completing tasks that are challenging.
In his clinic for enhancing brain function, Dr. Fotuhi hires "brain coaches" who spend one on one time with each patient doing one thing... Playing games!
Games build memory skills, strategic thinking and most importantly, they work the weak parts of the brain to make them stronger.
Dr. Fotuhi recommends playing games consistently for boosting overall brain function.
I am thrilled to introduce you to the top five games Dr. Fotuhi and his team recommend.
I've tried them all with my family. They are fantastic for developing creative thinking, faster reaction time and growing critical thinking skills!
The tricky part is that at first you won't like the games your brain needs the most because they will be difficult for you, but don't give up!
The games that are the most difficult for you or for your child are the ones you'll will want to practice in order to strengthen the part of your brain responsible for the particular skills at play.
For example, my older daughter loves Q-Bitz. She loves it so much and it was so easy for her that we had to get Q-bitz Extreme in order for her to feel challenged.
On the other hand, my younger daughter despised Q-Bitz at first because she felt it was too challenging. The puzzles were not intuitive for her and they stretched her brain a bit too far. So, I bought her Q-bitz Jr. to bring it to her level and help her grow the skills it takes to complete the game.
She doesn't want to play Q-Bitz against her sister, but she now likes the game when playing non-competitively.
Q-Bitz will challenge your spatial thinking.
In this game, you'll choose a card and get a small puzzle board with blocks. You'll recreate the puzzle on the card by flipping the blocks on your board to match the card.
The player who completes their puzzle the fastest wins.
It may sound easy, but it's a spatial awareness challenge for the brain.
My 10 year old said it's the "most fun game I've ever played." She played through all the Q-bitz cards so fast we had to get the Q-bitz Extreme version for her to feel challenged.
My 7 year old said, "I hate it!"
That's why we got her Q-Bitz Jr., and, that's why we are continuing to play this game no matter how long it takes for her to see how fun it can be. Her brain needs this kind of mental challenge to get stronger.
This game can be played solo or with a group.
In this game, you start with a game board and a spiral bound set of cards. You also start with super fun chocolate truffles as game pieces.
You'll flip to the card you want to complete. The first several cards are for beginners and the levels increase as you go through the deck.
The card provides clues for you to figure out where to place your chocolate game pieces on the board.
Your brain will be challenged to think through all kinds of scenarios for how you can create the chocolate pattern the card is prompting you to create on your game board.
This game can be played solo or as a team game with 2 people. For more players, you'll want to buy 2 games.
The one downside of this game is that it really does make you crave chocolate. :-)
Colorku is a brain workout from start to finish. It's like sudoku with numbers, but this game board uses colors.
It will strengthen your executive functioning skills as you think through multiple layers of information all at once.
It's a satisfying game once you unlock the pattern and create your colorku.
My daughters like it because they say the game pieces look and feel like gum-balls. They also enjoy the strategic thinking needed to complete the game.
To play, you'll pick a card from the deck. You'll then lay down the colored "gum-ball" pieces on the board that are shown on the card. To win the game, you have to figure out how to place game pieces of all nine colors in each row, each box and each column. There can be no repeated colors in a box, row or column.
We bought two of these game boards so we can have competitions.
We love this game!
Grow your memory skills with this classic memory game. This particular version is colorful and the sustainable materials are satisfying to touch as you flip the pieces over.
Spread out the pieces on a table. Turn over two pieces at a time on your turn. If you find a match, keep it and play again. The better your memory, the more cards you will match and keep. The player with the most matches wins.
My youngest daughter wins this game every. single. time.
She is amazing at it!
My older daughter doesn't love it, partly because she doesn't win against her sister, but also because it's harder for her. That tells me that her brain needs this game in order to get stronger.
We will keep this one in the rotation!
5. Gravity Maze
This game is a family favorite!
You'll pick a card according to your level. The card will tell you which game pieces you'll need to start with to begin building your maze. You'll place them on your board according to the picture.
Then, using the additional game pieces pictured on the card, you'll build a marble maze with the goal of making the marble land in the designated red game piece.
It's a total brain workout to figure out how to get the marble from point A to point E, for example, using the game pieces.
The game pieces come in all shapes and sizes.
This is where the brain training and strategies comes into play.
You'll twist and turn the game pieces to find just the right fit to create a pathway for the marble to end up in the red game piece.
It's extremely satisfying once you've mastered the puzzle and can watch your marble drop through the maze.
We love taking slow motion videos of the marble dropping to its destination.
This is a solo game, but can be played with teams.
Don't miss this game!
Bonus game! Quick Pucks
Quick Pucks is a strategy game that reminds me of a Rubix cube, but instead of moving colored pieces on a cube, you'll move colored pucks that slide on a flat game board.
You'll pick a card and have a time limit to move your pucks into the same pattern shown on the card.
The beginner level is simple and fun for most kids. Sliding the pucks is a satisfying experience.
The second level is where the challenge truly begins. Like a Rubix cube, you have to move your pucks into a new position without taking them off the board.
We purchased two games in order to have four game board to accommodate four players.
Purchasing the Games
Create a budget.
Plan to purchase one game at a time as your budget allows.
We purchased one game a month for a six months until we had all of the games above.
Getting one a month is a great way to keep the excitement coming as the kids know a new game will be arriving soon.
The games above are extremely effective, but music has even greater power to strengthen brain synapses starting from birth.
Unlike strategy games or other cognitive activities, playing musical games in early childhood and playing a musical instrument at any age works both sides of the brain at the same time.
Research has shown that musical activities uniquely light up both hemispheres of the brain, resulting in new synapses being formed for stronger, faster creative pathways. To learn more, watch Anita Colins' TedEd on YouTube entitled "How Playing an Instrument Benefits Your Brian."
Dr. Collins says that "when a musician plays a musical instrument, there are fireworks going off all over the brain."
From the time a child is born, music should play an integral role in education precisely because it powerfully enhances brain function and it is enjoyable.
Even greater than the consistent growth that happens when playing the board games above, consistent exposure to musical games and structured musical experiences increases blood flow and creates even more new synapses in the brain.
The power of musical experiences lies in it's ability to reach the whole brain at the same time.
Just as you incorporate board games into your educational rotation, incorporating musical games and playing a musical instrument should be at the top of your list for building a better brain.
Music education will boost you or your child's brain into better performance all around.
Do you have access to the brain-boosting power of music education for your child?
Try the Musik at Home Membership with access to more than 500 brain-boosting musical games and activities packed into sequential classes that will have your child asking for more!
Courses included beginning piano, family music classes for ages 4-7, preschoolers, toddlers, babies and mixed ages.
The early years are exponential for brain development. Be sure to include music in your child's developmental growth plan.