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66 Skill-Building Games for Kids to Play

While Developing Essential Thinking Skills

Highlights 4Cs

Curious, Creative, Caring, and Confident™
The light bulb icon represents curiosity. For content about raising a curious child, look for this icon.
The paint brush icon represents creativity. For content about raising a creative child, look for this icon.
The holding hands icon represents caring. For content about raising a caring child, look for this icon.
The thumbs up icon represents confidence. For content about raising a confident child, look for this icon.
Want to help your child learn to rock essential skills? Start playing!
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

Get-Moving Games

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.

Sing-Along Games

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.