In honour of ‘National Train Your Brain Day’, I’ve written this brief article to highlight a few brain training games that you could try out yourselves. The day itself was named this way as an initiative to encourage more people to expand and exercise their brains and utilise more of its capacity. With that in mind, I thought I’d offer a small peek into the fun that can be had in giving yourself a mental workout with a few ideas.
I imagine that you will have tried most or all of these games at least once before in your lifetime but if not, or if you’ve lost connection with these types of activities, then perhaps this short reading will help. I’ve broken the activities / games down into different categories for your convenience. Whilst several of the items listed will overlap with other categories, their predominant theme is used for division purpose. Just to note, see the links at the bottom of the page if you want to read the rules of a particular activity or game; this article explores the benefits of playing these games as opposed to how to play them.
For each section there will be a few listed examples with an ‘editor’s pick’ and, if you’ve enjoyed the ideas, there’s a handy list of sites at the bottom of the page to direct you to different activities.
Word Based Games
- Crosswords – Although less popular in recent years, crosswords are excellent way to use general knowledge mixed with logical solution.
- Anagram challenge – Unfurling anagrams pushes our brains to work in a different way and helps to develop concentration.
- Taboo – As a popular party game, Taboo is well known across the world and is a great tool for helping to develop range of vocabulary with useful deductive skills.
- Editor’s Pick: Scrabble – This is just a great game to play with 2-4 people. Each person can play to their own ability whilst stretching their vocabulary by using words they “kind of heard once from somewhere….”
Number Based Games
- Sudoku – When spending some regular time on Sudoku puzzles, our brain is exercised in a way that can teach us patience, develop our problem solving skills and can help improve our ability to spot patterns.
- Darts – Playing darts by scoring down from 301 or 501 is an excellent way of working your brain over with constant calculations. When getting within touching distance of ‘0’, you’ll need to work out different options of reaching that target based on your throwing ability.
- Blackjack – I could pick from a number of card games that are great for making us stretch ourselves intellectually, but Blackjack is simple, fun to play, and gets us to constantly make decisions based on how the numbers fit to our own strategy.
- Editor’s Pick: ‘Countdown’ Numbers game – Channel 4’s ‘Countdown’ has been running for many years now and is a wonderfully simple but brilliant game show playing off the themes of words and numbers. The numbers game is particularly interesting as it teases out various methods of reaching a certain target and can be played competitively as well as on your own (though it’s much more fun with another person). The rules for the numbers game are here and feel free to click on the image to be directed to an online version of the game itself.
Memory and Logic Based Games
- Spider Solitaire – Perhaps similar to Chess in the way that it requires the player to think many steps ahead whilst adapting to randomised cards. This game strengthens memory and logical planning skills.
- Concentration – Concentration is a classic card game with a very simple set of rules. It has been duplicated many times (even in well-known video games) and helps to develop a heightened level of memory retention.
- Rubik’s Cube – There are many competitions involving the Rubik’s Cube and it is quite often used as a testament to logical solution and memorisation of algorithms.
- Editor’s Pick: Jigsaw puzzles – Another simple activity that many of us have enjoyed before (usually as a child) but are also great for developing attention to detail and patience. For larger puzzles, getting others involved to help out can also be more mentally stimulating.
Rather than just point you to a Google search, I’ve included the following 4 riddles as a starting point for what the internet has to offer. Time spent on working out riddles can help to stimulate parts of the brain that we do not use regularly and is useful for enabling us to ‘think outside of the box’. Try these out to see for yourself! (Answers at the bottom of the article).
- What is greater than God, more evil than the Devil, the poor have it, the rich need it, and if you eat it, you’ll die?
- What gets wetter the more it dries?
- What occurs once in every minute, twice in every moment, yet never in a thousand years?
- What is made of water but if you put it into water it dies?
Strategy Based Board Games
- Draughts – Played against another player, Draughts requires you to adapt to your partner’s moves whilst trying to perform your own game plan. It develops your planning skills, concentration and your resilience to problems.
- Mastermind – Not the question and answer game show of the same name, but the coloured board game from the 1970’s. This is a ‘code breaking’ game that requires systematic skills in order to succeed.
- Backgammon – One of the oldest known board games, Backgammon combines keen strategy with the luck of the dice roll.
- Editor’s Pick: Chess – Although the exact origin of Chess is unknown, one thing is for sure; it is a masterful game that can help to develop many cognitive skills. Regular involvement in playing Chess can improve memory, develop strategic thinking, heighten attention to detail and generally improve brain function.
…And Some Alternative Video Game Options:
- Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training – As a series of short games designed specifically to train your brain, this video game series is an ideal choice to start this mini list. The series systematically works by exercising different mental processing skills as a means of gradual progression.
- Lemmings – From a creative period in the 1990’s, this game necessitates your management of a large number of ‘lemmings’ in order to get them safely to their goal. With various options of how to reach that goal, Lemmings also encourages creative thinking.
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – This isn’t an obvious choice but within the game are 120 ‘shrines’ that each require puzzles to be solved. These shrines can be short or long but almost always with multiple possibilities of how to solve the puzzles.
- Editor’s Pick: Tetris – Ok, this one is an obvious choice. Nevertheless, as one of the most famous video games ever, Tetris is also a genius creation that holds a repetitive but incredibly addictive hook in gameplay. The game requires increasingly quick reaction times and forward thinking in order to stack your blocks clearly away from danger.
If you are able to get a few others involved with these games then have a group brain training workout! If not, then utilise the single player games / activities here but, either way, enjoy and get a little mental sweat on!
- A towel
- The letter ‘m’
- An ice cube
For an excellent version of the ‘Countdown’ Numbers game, visit http://www.maths-resources.com/countdown/practise.html#numbers
And for an extensive list of well-known riddles (with answers), visit http://brainden.com/logic-riddles.htm
Useful Links for Games / Activities
Sudoku – https://sudoku.game/
Anagram games – http://freebrainagegames.com/anagrams.html#
Spider Solitaire – https://www.free-spider-solitaire.com/
The Countdown Numbers game – http://www.maths-resources.com/countdown/practise.html
Riddles – http://brainden.com/logic-riddles.htm
How to Play….
The Countdown Numbers game – http://wiki.apterous.org/Numbers_game
Spider Solitaire – https://bicyclecards.com/how-to-play/spider-solitaire/
Draughts – http://www.compendia.co.uk/draughts.htm#targetText=Draughts%20is%20played%20on%20a,Your%20opponent%20does%20the%20same.&targetText=The%20object%20of%20the%20game,so%20they%20cannot%20be%20moved.
Mastermind – https://www.wikihow.com/Play-Mastermind
Best Riddles with Answers (2019). Brain Den. Accessed October 2019 at http://brainden.com/logic-riddles.htm
Maths Resources (2019). Accessed October 2019 at http://www.maths-resources.com/countdown/practise.html#numbers