For Card Sharks
Remembering where cards are helps kids strengthen their working memory: concentration, go fish, old maid, hearts, spades, rummy, poker, solitaire
Games with matching, and with rules that can change, both offer practice in mental flexibility: crazy eights, Uno, spoons, Fluxx, Exploding Kittens
Fast-hands games require kids to pay attention and control their actions: snap, slapjack, spit
No-Boredom Board Games
Lots of board games involve strategy, which in turn includes elements of working memory, self-regulation, and flexible thinking: Sorry!, Battleship, Parcheesi, mancala, checkers, chess, go, Ticket to Ride, Dungeons & Dragons
Logic and puzzle games also help kids work on memory and cognitive flexibility: Mastermind, Traffic Jam, AnimaLogic, Labyrinth
Games that incorporate physical activity aren’t just good for your child’s body: They are good for her brain too! Many challenge kids’ attention and self-control: freeze dance; musical chairs; Red Light, Green Light; duck, duck, goose; Simon Says; hide-and-seek; Ghost in the Graveyard.
Whenever a child is “It” in a tag game, he’s using his working memory, and attention skills: Mother May I?; What Time Is It, Mr. Fox?; freeze tag; sock tag; sharks and minnows (in the pool or on dry land).
Add a ball, and kids need to work extra hard on focusing and decision- making: four-square, dodgeball, tetherball. Organized sports are good for practicing strategy and flexible thinking: soccer, basketball, volleyball, hockey.
Ditto for a jump rope; these games let kids practice their focusing and memory skills: jump rope, double Dutch, Chinese jump-rope chants.
Kids this age can move on from basic songs with movement to more difficult activities. Build memory, focus, and self-control skills by singing rounds, such as Row, Row, Row Your Boat; Make New Friends, Frère Jacques.
Chants with clapping also help with memory and self-control, plus mental flexibility: Miss Mary Mack; Miss Susie; A Sailor Went to Sea; Say, Say, My Playmate
Jigsaw puzzles require planning, memory, and flexibility. I Spy books, games, and puzzles help with focus.
Pen-and-paper puzzles are good for strengthening working memory and practicing mental flexibility (using a familiar letter, word, or number in a new way, and correcting mistakes): word finds, crosswords, mazes, Sudoku.
Spatial puzzles are also a challenge for mental flexibility: Rubik’s Cube, Perplexus.