Winter is upon us which means less time outdoors and more time indoors. Of course this doesn't mean a change in quality family time, in fact quite the opposite; bring out the board games! As well as creating an opportunity for time together and a great form of entertainment, board games can also be used to strengthen memory ability and executive function. Perfect for developing brains, board games are a sensational tool to help children and adolescents create new neural links and pathways which in turn enhance their academic abilities.

We are all familiar with the favourites Memory and Uno, but what are the best games in the market now for developing brains and which skills do they enhance?

Spot It

Best for: Attention Suitable for: ages 6 and up

Spot It is a global craze that can be found in many different themes and varieties. It is a fast paced game that is easy to learn and play and suits players of all ages. Its secret power, however, is in the way this game teaches your brain to sort through various stimuli to find that which is important. Every day we are bombarded with competing stimuli and we have a tendency to focus on that which is personal or significant to us. We may be captured by something that is unique or we may gravitate to something that is familiar. What we do know is that we miss an abundance of information and our brain simply fills in the gaps to create the world we think was there. Spot It forces your brain to look for stimuli in ways you don’t expect it to appear, forcing your attention to expand to the world around you.


Best for: Short term memory Suitable for: ages 8 and up

A modern memory game, Kloak not only has you trying to remember where coloured pegs can be found, but has you trying to track them as they move around a board too. Our short term memory can typically hold between 5-9 items at any one time. The secret to enhancing short term memory is to link things together in sequences so that a lot of information can be held as though it is a single item. The secret to Kloak is in figuring out patterns to track multiple colours at any one time, enhancing your short term memory’s capacity.


Best for: Decision making Suitable for: ages 8 and up

My new personal favourite game is Azul. Azul sees players choosing coloured tiles to tile the wall of a Portugese palace. To be successful at this game you have to choose your colours wisely to maximise your chances of tiling. Azul requires high levels of decision making which is something we refer to as an executive function of the brain. Decision making requires different solutions and outcomes to be manipulated in the brain, heightening an individual’s ability to evaluate, analyse and synthesise information. All of these skills are particularly important developmental skills in a young person’s cognitive development. Of course, this game is fun without too much strategy as well and, if you are looking to challenge yourself, you can flip the board and play with less limitations and a greater number of decisions to weigh up!


Best for: Predicting outcomes Suitable for: ages 8 and up

Labyrinth is a maze game where you move board pieces to try to collect the items you need. The challenge is that everyone else is moving them too. The pieces you can play need to help you in the future and block your opponents in the future as well, that is why this game is fabulous for predicting outcomes and the likelihood of scenarios occurring. About one third of an adolescent's day is spent daydreaming. Although that may seem like a lot of time, daydreaming is not just used as an escape from boredom, it is used for idea generation, problem solving and predicting futures as well. Daydreaming time is valuable time to assess those planning questions, ‘if I do this then…’, or ‘I could do that and then….’. Labyrinth helps promote and develop these skills by assessing what the likely outcomes may be of each move that happens now.

Rush Hour

Best for: Spatial problem solving Suitable for: ages 8 and up

Rush Hour is a great individual or team game where you do not compete against one another but instead work to solve a spatial puzzle. Spatial abilities include interpreting maps, rotating 3D objects and solving puzzles. These skills are heavily guided by the right hemisphere, our creative side of the brain, and greatly enhance the way we interpret the world around us. In Rush Hour you need to move cars and trucks in different orders and sequences to free the stuck car from the traffic jam. The challenge in this game is you need to think outside the box, as obvious spatial patterns can get the car really stuck. This game really enhances the ability to think differently about solutions and also enhances the ability to store multiple steps in your head at once.

Board games are much loved for their place in developing values around competition and co-operation and in learning about strategy as well. However, I think they can be undervalued in the way in which they can strengthen all of our memory and thinking skills, no matter what age you are. So strengthen those super brains in your house and have some fun at the same time this Winter.

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