The best games are the ones that let you test and improve your skills – while having loads of fun, of course! But did you know that playing certain games can actually make you smarter? It is thought that they do this through improving what is called ‘fluid intelligence’ – or your ability to apply what you know to unfamiliar situations and think laterally to solve problems. And better yet, this seems to work both with children and elderly participants as well as adults – so make sure to get the whole family involved in some of these games!
The great part about Scrabble is that you have the opportunity to learn from the words that your opponent makes, as well as testing your own skills as you play. It’s an excellent way to improve your vocabulary, and even if you find it challenging at first, the more you practice the better and faster you’ll get at it.
While it might not seem like an obvious ‘brain game’, paintball is actually an excellent way to improve strategic thinking! Perhaps the best part is that you’ll be having so much fun you won’t even realize you’re actually engaging parts of your brain you don’t often get to use. Even if you turn out not to be a tactical genius, you’ll be getting some decent exercise, which is critical for good mental health.
Swap hands day
This is an interesting ‘game’ to play solo or with your partner – all you need to do is swap using your dominant hand for your non-dominant one for the day! If you’re right handed, then try using your left to brush your teeth and hair, hold your spoon, and even write with whenever time allows. Because your left hand is connected to the right side of your brain, there’s evidence that swapping to this side for a period of time can stimulate creativity, and actually forge new connections between the brain hemispheres! You might want to give this a try the next time you’re battling to come up with a creative solution to a problem.
Play with a Rubik’s cube
There’s evidence that playing with this famous puzzle can help improve concentration as well as hand-eye coordination, so it’s a lovely gift for the whole family to share.
Play chess regularly
It appears that chess experts have a unique ability to get both sides of their brain working actively during a game, a skill that can carry over into general life. This might be the reason that people who play chess are generally perceived to be more intelligent than their peers – and here’s the good news. Because this skill is attained through hours of practice, with a bit of dedication you can acquire it too! Invest in a chess set for the living room and make sure to play regularly with family members to get the full benefit of the game.
Play a strategy-based video game
In a strategy game, you need to plan and manage limited resources and logistics. It seems that complex, strategy-based games can actually improve cognitive skills, including working memory and reasoning – all without you even realizing it. StarCraft and Civilization are good examples of this kind of game, so now you’ve got an excellent excuse to indulge. Even simple games like Super Mario Brothers and Tetris have been shown to improve the neural plasticity of your brain!
Download a puzzle, riddle or logic app
Lumosity and FitBrains are great examples of this kind of app, which contain a range of different games and challenges to work through. They are all specifically designed to increase memory, attention span, processing speed and flexibility, as well as problem solving skills. For younger players (or just those of us who don’t want anything too challenging) LittleBigPlanet is another excellent option.
The power of Charades as a brain-trainer lies in the need to swap normal communication channels for visual ones. For those observing, it encourages you to think laterally about what the other person might be trying to convey – so everyone benefits! If you used to play this game as a child, now might be the time to introduce your own kids to the tradition.
Often referred to as “physical chess”, fencing is one of the best physical activities to stimulate mental processes. It can teach you to think ahead of your opponent, speed up your reflexes, and improve hand-eye coordination. As you learn more moves, you start to improve your memory as well – so this is definitely a sport to look into if you’re looking for a way to get some exercise for your body and your mind!