Top 21 Smart Brain Games For Kids

✔ Research-backed

Brain development in childhood is crucial as that lays the foundation for growth later in life (1). Hence, parents should focus on the brain development of the child along with physical growth. Brain games for kids act as an exercise to sharpen a child’s brain and improve its functionality. Just like the body, the brain also needs activities to grow and function better. Delve into this post for some of the best brain games that will serve as entertainment for kids and help them improve their mental abilities.

In This Article

Top 21 Brain Games For Kids

You can try physical activities, puzzles, word games, teasers, riddles, and other activities to exercise the gray cells and aid in the child’s cognitive development. These games range in age-appropriateness for children from preschool to middle school.

Brain Training Activities

The more active the brain is, the better it develops. Here are a few activities designed to engage the child’s mind by means of logic and boost brain development.

1. I spy with my eye

I spy with my eye brain games for kids

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A classic game that has been played by generations, I Spy with My Eye makes the child more observant of the surroundings and helps them use their deduction skills. This is the perfect game to play with younger children while you wait for something, such as a doctor’s appointment, in a queue at a restaurant or on a drive.

What you will need: Eyes, ears, and imagination; time

How to:

The idea of the game is to make the kids look at the world around them and wonder about the little mundane things we take for granted.

  1. Look around the room and pick an object, but do not reveal what it is.
  2. Then say “I spy with my eye something…” and then mention a feature of an object, such as its color, shape, or size. For example, “I spy with my eye something blue or round or spiky.”Give the child a chance to guess what it is each time. Keep giving more clues by sharing more features of the chosen object.
  3. The participants can take turns to pick objects while the others guess what they are.
protip_icon Did you know?
The game was first seen in England in Victorian times. It first appeared in The Manchester Times of 1889.

2. The brain-body coordination activity

Brain body coordination activity as brain games for kids

Image: Shutterstock

We function efficiently when the brain and the other parts of the body work in tandem. This activity helps improve motor coordinationiThe ability of bones, muscles, and nerves to function together to make small, fine movements in children.

What you will need: Space to move around freely, stretch and bend

How to:

You can try different activities to achieve the goal i.e., brain and body coordination. We have listed a few examples below.

  1. Wiggle your toes: Get the children to sit on a chair with their feet dangling. Take off any shoes or footwear they have on and ask them to move only the toes on both feet up and down, or round and round. You can also ask them to move only two big toes, or just the toes of one foot so they learn how to exercise control on the body movements.
  2. The other hand: Every time your brain sends out an instruction, your dominant hand takes over the job. But this time, ask the child to use the other hand to help improve their coordination. If they are right-handed, ask them to use their left hand and vice-versa. Start with simple and safe tasks, and try harder tasks once they learn how to use the other hand better.
  3. Rub your belly while patting your head: This is a tricky coordination activity that you can try with the older kids. It is not easy and will need a lot of practice and concentration, which help in the development of the brain.

3. Pretend play

Pretend play brain games for kids

Image: Shutterstock

Pretend play helps develop a child’s social and emotional skills, critical thinking abilities and language skills. It also exercises the child’s working memory, as they try to stay in character and display behaviors accordingly.

What you will need: Ideas, scenarios, props if needed

How to:

Pretend play is at its best when children use their imagination and create scenarios and situations that they have to deal with. But sometimes, the caregivers may nudge it.

  1. Create a list of scenarios or situations that the children can enact. Don’t give too many instructions – just pick a scene and let the children use their imagination to play.
  2. Examples include shopping at a supermarket or being a doctor, banker, firefighter etc.
  3. Make a box of props using old clothes, accessories, and objects and keep it in the children’s room or the classroom. Encourage children to use them for pretend play.

4. One word story

One word storytelling brain games for kids

Image: Shutterstock

This group activity lets the children build a story, one word at a time. The game encourages them to put on their creative thinking hats while ensuring they don’t stray away from the theme.

What you will need: Space to play, themes if any

How to:

  1. Make the children stand in a circle, facing inside and each other.
  2. Pick a child at random and ask them to start the story with a word. You can pick any word you like, such as ‘once’, ‘yesterday’, and ‘suddenly’ to begin with and the children have to choose a word to continue it and finish the sentence.
  3. They have to build the story until it comes to a conclusion or the moderator says stop.

5. Memory game

Memory games as brain games for kids

Image: Shutterstock

The classic brain game boosts a child’s ability to recall things that they have learned recently, strengthening their memory power and mental agility.

What you will need: Space to play, flashcards if you have

How to:

You can play the game with or without flashcards.

With flashcards: This is suitable for one or two players.

  1. Get a set of memory game flash cards, which have two cards for each symbol or sign.
  2. Mix the cards thoroughly and arrange them face down on a table.
  3. The player turns a card face up and then turns it back while making a mental note of the symbol.
  4. The idea is to remember the position of the cards and uncover them correctly to pair them up. The game is over when all cards have been paired.

Without flashcards: This is ideal when you are traveling and do not have flashcards.

  1. Sit in a circle and pick a theme: cities, animals, objects, foods etc.
  2. The first player starts the game by saying a word. The next player has to repeat the previous player’s word and add a new word to create the list. The next player does the same, and the number of words on the list continues to grow.
  3. The players have to list all the words in the right order at every turn.
  4. Anyone who misses the order or changes it is out.
  5. The last one standing is the winner.

Besides these screen-free activities, puzzles can also support brain development in children.

Puzzles For Brain Development

Puzzles can effectively engage the child’s brain, exercising their problem-solving and analytical skillsiThe general ability of a person to find a reasonable conclusion or solution to given problems .  Jigsaw puzzles and block puzzles are educational, promoting hand-eye coordination and gross motor skillsiAbilities that let us do tasks where one needs to engage the large muscles in the legs, arms, and torso . Here, we have listed a few puzzles appropriate for children.

6. Sudoku

Sudoku as brain games for kids

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Sudoku is a number-placement puzzle that has 9×9 grid with numbers in a few boxes. The goal of the player is to fill in the remaining slots with the appropriate numbers such that a number appears only once in each row and column of the puzzle. The player has to use numbers from 1 to 9 to fill the grid in as little time as possible.

protip_icon Trivia
The Sudoku story began in 1783 when Leonhard Euler, a Swiss Mathematician, devised ‘Latin Squares,’ which he described as ‘a new kind of magic square.’

7. Rubik’s cube

Rubik's cube as brain games for kids

Image: Shutterstock

A Rubik’s cube is an excellent tool to keep the child engaged on long road trips or when there’s a lot of waiting period. Each side of the cube is differently colored, with nine small squares on each side. The goal is to get all the same-colored squares to one side in as little time as possible. The cube is an excellent tool to sharpen the brain through strategy, enhance concentration and improve the child’s spatial awarenessiBeing conscious of your surroundings and where you are in relation to them .

There are 43 quintillion ways to solve the cube, which means every time a child plays with it, they will enhance their skills.

protip_icon Did you know?
Every single position of a Rubik’s Cube can be solved in twenty moves or less. A 1981 guide to solving the Rubik’s Cube, written by a 12-year-old English schoolboy, sold 1.5 million copies.

8. Mazes

Mazes as brain games for kids

Image: Shutterstock

Should you go left? Right? Wait, weren’t we here before?

Being in an actual maze is thrilling and can help a child’s sense of directions and observation skills. Mazes on paper are equally interesting, as they boost the visual and motor development skills, problem-solving ability, and fine motor development. The more the number of mazes a child solves, the faster they get at solving them.

What you will need: Ready-to-use maze puzzle books or sheets, pencils, and erasers

9. Jigsaws

Jigsaw puzzles as brain games for kids

Image: Shutterstock

Jigsaw puzzles are simple and easy to solve for younger kids. They also contribute to the child’s cognitive development by enhancing their problem-solving skills, reasoning, visual perceptioniThe ability to observe and interpret our environment through the information we get through our eyes , and spatial awareness, along with fine motor skillsiA skill where one needs to use the small muscles in hands, fingers, and wrists . Jigsaw puzzles improve a child’s shape recognition skills and the ability to recreate what they see by putting all the pieces together.

Usually, jigsaws have 20-30 pieces. You can try larger and more complicated puzzles with more pieces for older kids and teens.

10. Brainteasers

Brain teasers as brain games for kids

Image: Shutterstock

Brainteasers are nothing but riddles that make you think. Often in the form of a question, brain teasers compel you to deduce the answer with the help of clues that are in the question itself. Here are a few examples of brainteasers for children.

  1. What belongs to you but is only used by the others?
    Answer: Your name
  1.  Why can’t a man living in Scotland be buried in England?
    Answer: Because he’s living, and we only bury the dead.
  1. A truck drove to a village and met four cars. How many vehicles went to the village?
    Answer: One truck
  1. Feed me, and I will grow. Give me a drink of water, and I will die. Who am I?
    Answer: Fire

Physical Activities and Exercises That Work The Brain

Not all games that work the brain need you to sit in one place. Here are a few activities that keep you fit physically and mentally.

11. Scavenger hunt

Scavenger hunt as brain games for kids

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Scavenger hunts are fun and warrant quick thinking and action, compelling the children to exercise their working memory. Scavenger hunts can be organized indoors or outdoors too, where the kids will have to indulge in some physical activity such as walking, running or climbing.

What you will need: Small objects that are easily hidden and safe places where you can plant them. Ensure a hunt that is not too easy or difficult. Also, make sure the path or places you choose to hide the objects are safe for kids.

12. Obstacle courses

Obstacle courses as brain games for kids

Image: Shutterstock

Obstacle courses exercise the brain-body coordination and improve the child’s kinetic skills, agility and problem-solving. Set up an indoor or outdoor course that challenges the child mentally and physically. A well-set obstacle course should make the child crawl under something, jump over, climb over, hop, skip, and walk. Obstacle courses boost early brain development and help the child gain better control over their physical movements.

What you will need: Chairs, cushions, string or rope, hula hoops, a tub of water and a timer. You can also use other objects that may help you chart the course better.

13. Stacking or nesting toys

Stacking as brain games for kids

Image: Shutterstock

Stacking or nesting toys may seem like a simple activity for babies and toddlers. But it has the potential to enhance early brain development while improving the child’s fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Picking up items exercises the fingers while the act of placing them on top of the other objects exercises the hand-eye coordination.

Stacking or nesting also works on the depth perception of the child. For older kids, you could make them stack cubes or chairs or other materials to make a tower that stands tall.

What you will need: Stacking or nesting toys for younger kids and toddlers, materials that can be stacked for older kids; space to play.

14. Simon says

Simon says as brain games for kids

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Simon says is a classic game played at schools and parties. The game may seem simple at first but can get challenging as you play. Whether you play with just a handful of kids or big groups, the game never gets boring. Simon says helps improve the child’s listening, interpretation, and social skills.

What will you need: Space to play, a small or large group of children

How to:

  1. The game begins with one person being ‘Simon’, who gives commands to the other players.
  2. The children have to listen to what Simon says and follow them. For instance, Simon says, jump, bend and touch your toe, pat your head or stand on one leg.
  3. But here is the catch here — the other kids must follow the commands only if the sentence begins with ‘Simon says’. If it doesn’t, and the other children still follow the commands, they lose points.
  4. The player with the highest number of points wins.

15. Neighborhood map quest

Neighborhood quest with map as brain games for kids

Image: Shutterstock

Charting a map is not easy. But who’s talking about a treasure map or even a world map? We only want the child to draw his or her own map of the neighborhood on a piece of paper. This activity aims at improving their knowledge about their surroundings.

What you will need: A3 or A4 size papers, pencils and erasers, rulers, crayons or sketch pens

How to:

  1. Give the kids a sheet of paper and pencils or crayons.
  2. Ask them to go around the neighborhood for a quick look of the area. Escort them and allow them enough time to observe the surroundings and make a note of them mentally.
  3. Once they are back to the classroom or the house, ask them to draw the map based on what they have seen.

This activity encourages their spatial thinking abilities and teaches them the basics of mapping, routing, and direction.

Pen And Pencil Brain Games

When the weather is not ideal for outdoor activities, you can try these pen and pencil brain games to keep the kids busy and improve brain development.

16. Dots and boxes

Pen and pencil brain games for kids

Image: Shutterstock

This is one of the oldest games played in classrooms, office meetings and at home! The simple game with a set of dots on a paper can keep the kids occupied during long rides or free hours at the school. The game is for two players.

What will you need: Paper and pen or pencil

How to:

  1. On a plain white paper, make a square of dots. Start with a smaller square (6×6) and then move on to a bigger square (9×9 or 12×12).
  2. Two players take turns, using different colored pens to join two dots to make a line.
  3. The aim is to be able to join dots to form squares. When players complete a square with their line, they score a point and get to put their initial in that box.
  4. The person with the highest number of boxes with their initial in it wins.

17. Tic tac toe

Tic tac toe as brain games for kids

Image: IStock

A game of Xs and Os, tic tac toe features a 3×3 grid with one player choosing the X and the other choosing O.

What you will need: Paper, pens or pencils

How to:

  1. The game is played between two people. It starts by drawing a grid, by crossing two parallel and perpendicular lines, forming nine squares.
  2. The first player begins by placing an X in one of the squares.
  3. The other player puts an O in another square.
  4. The players keep adding Xs and Os to try and get three Xs or Os in a row: horizontally, vertically or diagonally.
  5. The player who gets three Xs or Os in a row wins, although in most cases, the game ends in a draw.

18. Paper telephone

Paper telephone as brain games for kids

Image: Shutterstock

Paper telephone is a fun game that encourages a child’s interpretation skills, drawing or artistic abilities. The game is played by at least three to as many as ten people.

What you will need: A paper and pencil or pen.

How to:

  1. The players are given a word or theme or object that they must depict in the form of a picture at the top of the page.
  2. Once done, they pass the paper to the next player, who writes a caption and folds it to reveal only the sentence and not the image before passing it to the next person.
  3. The next player has to draw an image to go with the caption and folds it so that only the second image is seen, before passing it to the next player.
  4. The game continues with participants writing a caption and drawing the image alternately until there is no more room on the paper.

The results are amusing, but the game is suitable for older kids and teens.

19. Pictionary

Pictionary as brain games for kids

Image: Shutterstock

Pictionary is similar to charades, except here, the players have to draw the clues on a board instead of enacting them. The game enhances the child’s creative thinking abilities, communication skills, and interpretation skills.

What you will need: A white or blackboard, marker or chalk, list of topics, movie names or objects.

How to:

  1. This is a game for groups. Divide the kids into groups of two or more, depending on the size of the group.
  2.  One member from each group is chosen and given the topic to depict through an image or picture. The rest of their team members must guess what the word or theme is.
  3. The team that gets it right gets points.
protip_icon Did you know?
Pictionary was invented by a bored waiter, Robert Angel, in Seattle. He struck upon this idea to liven up social parties in the early 1980s.

20. Crossword

Crossword as brain games for kids

Image: IStock

When you are going on long drives or to places where the kid will have nothing to do but wait, a crossword puzzle could come in handy. Crossword puzzles are among the top tools to keep the brain active and hone the child’s vocabulary. Some studies also suggest that crosswords help improve the memory function of the brain and intelligence.

Each puzzle is a grid of empty squares that should be filled with the right word based on the clues given. The more a child works on crosswords, the better he or she will become at solving it.

What you will need: Crossword puzzle books or sheets picked according to the child’s age, pencil and eraser.

21. Rebus puzzle

Rebus puzzle

Image: IStock

Rebus puzzles represent a word or phrase using pictures, symbols, and letters. To play, provide children with a series of images and symbols that, when read together, form a meaningful phrase or word. For example, a picture of an eye followed by a heart symbol and an image of a sheep may represent ‘I Love Ewe.’ Similarly, children must interpret the visual clues to solve the puzzle. Puzzles are considered beneficial for children’s cognitive development (2). They enhance critical thinking and problem-solving skills by challenging children to think outside the box. Hence, a Rebus puzzle can be a brain exercise for children.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How can kids improve brain activity?

You can encourage improved brain activity in children by exposing them to a variety of activities such as reading, singing, sports, and engaging in math, languages, science, and arts. You should also teach your children interpersonal skills such as kindness, empathy, and teamwork to ensure proper brain development (1).

2. What is the purpose of brain training for kids?

Brain training for children includes fun and intense online games that help them improve their attention, learning, and memory skills. It also assists children in retaining knowledge and information, processing them, improving working memory, and being more cognitively adaptableiThe ability to effectively adapt to the changing environment (2).

3. How can parents incorporate brain games into their child’s daily routines?

Parents may allot a specific time every day for brain games such as puzzles, riddles, and memory games or include them in their playtime. They may also turn chores into games, such as categorizing objects or counting while cleaning up. Furthermore, encouraging them to read and engaging in a discussion can also aid in their brain development.

4. How early can parents introduce brain games to their children, and are there any age-appropriate games?

Parents can introduce brain games to children as early as six to nine months. They can start with simple games such as peek-a-boo, stacking blocks, or putting toys in buckets during the first 18 months and gradually move on to more complex ones such as sorting, counting, and matching games when they turn two or three years old (3).

5. Can playing brain games improve a child’s academic performance?

Brain games train children to think a certain way and enhance their memory, ability to recall, solve problems, and overall cognitive skills, which may help them with their school subjects, such as math (4).

6. What should parents consider when selecting brain games for their children, and how can they assess their child’s progress?

Parents may look for age-appropriate games that address a child’s weaknesses and help strengthen or develop the skills they lack. Moreover, brain games that take a fun approach to learning and help keep the children engaged, such as those involving colors, music, or physical activity, can be ideal choices. Furthermore, their progress may be assessed by monitoring their scores, speed, or accuracy with each advancing level, discussing, and taking feedback on their schoolwork.

7. Can playing brain games have any negative effects on children, such as addiction or overstimulation?

Playing brain games on devices may lead to screen addiction and reduced physical activity. Moreover, extended hours of these games may overstimulate their brain, leading to exhaustion which can, in turn, impact their overall health. So, parents need to ensure children spend only a stipulated amount of time playing brain games while simultaneously engaging in outdoor plays and taking time to rest.

8. How can teachers incorporate brain games into their classroom curriculum to help students learn better?

Teachers can use educational games that are in line with the curriculum. They can use brain games as warm-up activities or a way to review concepts taught in class. Teachers can also customize the games targeting specific learning goals and making learning engaging and interactive for students.

Brain development in children is as important as their physical development. Playing games is one of the several factors that influence the brain’s functioning. Activities, including puzzles, word games, or riddles, help in better brain engagement, thus improving cognitive skills. These brain games for kids are suitable for different age groups. Pick those that suit your children and help them exercise their minds more than before. Also, while playing these games, don’t let it seem like a task. Keep the fun alive because children learn better when they enjoy something.

Infographic: Brain Games For Children

Studying or reading books is not the only way to boost brain function and activity in children. One can do that with the help of games and activities too! Yes, that is right. In the infographic that follows, we have put together a few game ideas that you can arrange for your child to boost their cognitive function along with having too much fun. So, read on and explore.

brain games for children (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Key Pointers

  • Brain games aid cognitive development and functionality.
  • One Word Story and other games promote creativity in children.
  • Memory games, puzzles, and Rubik’s Cube enhance problem-solving and concentration skills.
  • Word games such as Pictionary and crosswords enhance language and communication abilities.
Brain Games For Kids_illustration

Image: Stable Diffusion/MomJunction Design Team

Sharpen your visual memory with this interactive and enjoyable video! Master techniques to enhance your memory skills and embark on a captivating journey of image recollection.

References

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Adrienne L. Tierney et al.; (2009); Brain Development and the Role of Experience in the Early Years.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3722610/
  2. S.C. Levine et al.; (2012); Early Puzzle Play: A predictor of preschoolers’ spatial transformation skill.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3289766/
  3. Why Ages 2-7 Matter So Much for Brain Development.
    https://www.edutopia.org/article/why-ages-2-7-matter-so-much-brain-development
  4. What Can Brain Training Really Do for Kids?
    https://childmind.org/article/can-brain-training-really-kids/
  5. Why play? Early games build bonds and brains.
    https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/why-play-early-games-build-bonds-and-brain-202302022884
  6. What Can Brain Training Really Do for Kids?
    https://childmind.org/article/can-brain-training-really-kids/
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Kristen Miller

Kristen MillerEducation expert

Kristen Miller began her career in Early Childhood Education in 1997 as a teacher's aide in the classroom while she pursued her degree in Political Science from University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She quickly discovered her talents in educating and nurturing young children and continued in the classroom as a lead teacher. Currently, Kristen is director of education at Celebree...read full bio