We all want our children to succeed: in school, in their extracurriculars and in their future. That’s why we take them from soccer practice to Mathletes, from Scouts to ballet, hoping that they will learn new skills and excel. We encourage them academically, supporting them with homework and class projects. But we also want our children to enjoy being children—to play and have fun! With educational games, children can do both: learning while playing, building valuable skills for school and beyond.
That’s why we’ve compiled a list of fun brain games and puzzles that promote problem-solving, spatial and mathematical thinking and socio-emotional development.
Rory’s Story Cubes
Rory’s Story Cubes have been a favorite game among parents, educators and business leaders since their debut in 2008. The nine illustrated cubes are versatile and educational, helping players build their vocabulary, imagination and communication skills. There are an unlimited number of ways to play: you can roll the dice and make up a story by yourself, work with friends to build an “epic tale,” or generate genre-specific scenarios. With fifty-four images and five expansion packs, you’ll never run out of story inspiration!
Blue Orange’s Gobblet game is tic-tac-toe, reinvented. Two players face off to be the first with four pegs in a row. Sound surprisingly simple? Think again! The nesting pieces mean opponents can “gobble up” each other’s smaller pegs with larger pegs. Sustainably sourced wood and an elegant, self-storing design make Gobblet appealing to children and adults. Fans of the game describe it as beautiful, fast-paced and easy to learn. Gobblet will help your child develop their visual perception, strategy and problem-solving skills.
Latice is the tropical-themed tile strategy game that takes just three minutes to learn, and twenty minutes to play. The game encourages players to grow “cognitive, spacial recognition, planning and interpersonal skills with no language, age or gender barriers.” Players take turns placing their tiles on the grid, matching the color or symbol of the tiles around it—the first person to play all of their tiles wins. Simple for children, but still fun for adults, Latice is the perfect choice for family game night!
Prime Climb from Math for Love is a great way to teach more complex math concepts like multiplication, division and factors in a straightforward, colorful way. Move your peg from the start space at 1, all the way to space 101 using math concepts. But beware (and be aware!), you and your opponents can bump each other back to start! As your child becomes stronger in their mathematical thinking, the game can grow with them, with the option of focusing on one math concept or advancing to use them all. Originally conceived as a Kickstarter concept in 2014, the game has won multiple awards, including the Tilliwig Brain Child Award and the Dr. Toy 10 Best Educational Award.
“Knot your noodle” with Kanoodle, the 3D puzzle game from Educational Insights. With over 101 puzzles from “basic to deviously difficult,” Kanoodle is a bit like Tetris. You’ve got to set up your board to match the challenge card, then find a way to make the remaining pieces fit. This travel size game serves up simple 2D tasks to complex 3D builds, so your child can improve their spatial thinking skills on-the-go!
Mancala is a classic strategy game, loved worldwide for centuries for it’s simplicity and accessibility. The game originated over a thousand years ago in Africa, played by making holes in the ground, using rocks and seeds as the playing pieces. Nowadays, you can play in the comfort of your home with this wooden and glass marble set from Square Root. Players take turns “sowing the seeds” across the board to collect more pieces than their opponent. The game is simple to learn, but nurtures complex skills like problem-solving and mathematical thinking.
Hanayma Cylinder Puzzle
This mysterious metal cylinder will keep your child puzzling and problem-solving for hours. Unraveling this challenging, unique puzzle is like cracking a safe: you’ll be twisting and turning to find the trick. And don’t expect any help, because the it doesn’t come with any instructions! Fans of the puzzle describe it as high-quality, beautifully designed and an interesting way to improve logic skills. And the fun doesn’t stop once you’ve taken the puzzle apart–the second challenge is re-assembling it!
ThinkFun’s Laser Maze is all about the “wow” factor, bringing board games into the 21st century with a real laser and futuristic pawns. The player must arrange the mirrored pieces to direct the laser beam through the maze. This single player game builds spatial thinking and sequential reasoning skills, with challenge cards by award-winning puzzle designer Wei-Hwa Huang.
Make math fun with Sum Swamp from Learning Resources! Think Candy Land meets basic math. Players use addition, subtraction, odds and evens to make their way safely across the alligator-infested swamp. Children roll two number dice and a math function die to find out how many spaces they can advance. But watch out…you could end up trapped in the endless loop until you roll your way to the exit space. Sum Swamp is a great math resource for every elementary student.