While sports are a ton of fun, kids benefit from working out their brains as much as their muscles. That said, you don't have to resort to worksheets and math problems to exercise their minds. The best brain games for kids are age-appropriate, present challenges that boost their spatial and reasoning skills, and are so much fun they won't even realize they're learning while they're playing.
Even though it may seem like it's all fun and games, educational board games and puzzles have real mental benefits. One study shows that preschoolers who play with puzzles perform better on spatial tasks. In older children, strategy games can help develop the frontal lobe, which is the part of the brain responsible for decision-making, planning, and organizing. Memorization games can sharpen a child's critical thinking skills and improve their visual perceptual skills, while interactive games that require can increase communication skills and teamwork.
Before you buy a bestselling STEM game or an intense logic puzzle, it's important to consider your child's age, personality, and interests. A unicorn sticker puzzle may be perfect for a younger child who is into magical creatures, while a complex puzzle is better for older kids and a verbal guessing game is ideal for children who love to chat. Presenting a child with age-appropriate games that provide just enough of a challenge (but not too much that it becomes a frustration) makes it more likely they will pick up the game again in the future.
If you aren't sure where to start, here's a round-up of some of the best brain games for kids on the market.
We only recommend products we love and that we think you will, too. We may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which was written by our Commerce team.
1. This Tetris Block Game That Even Adults Love
- For Ages: 3 years+
Help boost math skills and improve hand-eye coordination and color perception in young children with this classic Tetris puzzle game. The game consists of 40 colorful wood blocks in different shapes and the goal is to make all of the pieces fit perfectly on the accompanying board. Children can also follow along with a design guidebook and use the blocks to create different shapes like an umbrella and flower. This game is recommended for ages three and up.
Helpful Review: "We gave this to our son for his 3rd birthday, and it's one of his favorite gifts. His sister and dad love it as well, and they've found ways to turn it into a group game. (Each person takes turns placing a piece, and they see if they can 'win' as a team by getting the pieces to all fit by the end.) Although the board and pieces were smaller than we expected, it was a great purchase."
2. An Award-Winning Single-Player Logic Game
- For Ages: 8 years+
Thousands of reviewers can't say enough good things about this award-winning STEM game, which boasts a 4.8-star rating and was voted one of Parents' Choice Best 25 Toys of 25 Years. The single-player game comes with a "traffic grid," various plastic vehicles, and over 40 challenge cards. The goal is always the same: to get the red car out of the traffic jam, yet the challenges vary according to the card selected. With so many options, this game builds reasoning and planning skills and it never gets old. The game is recommended for ages eight and up. If you have younger children who want to get in on the action, there's a Junior version designed for ages five and up.
Helpful Review: "My kids are 6 and 10 and they both LOVE this game. Even I enjoy it. My 10-year-old's occupational therapist introduced us to it as a way to help her learn to overcome frustration and solve puzzles. It has been a wild success."
3. These Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles For Toddlers
- For Ages: 3-6
The perfect fun brain game for toddlers and young children, this quality wooden puzzle set includes four 12-piece puzzles that can help boost your little one's fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Ideal for ages three to six, each puzzle fits inside of a convenient carrying box so it's simple to take this toy with you. And there's a theme to suit every child's interests, from this vehicle puzzle set to dinosaurs, pets, and more.
This highly rated set boasts more than 6,000 reviews. Reviewers say they are also easy to clean up and sturdy enough to carry from place to place.
Helpful Review: "Easy enough and with few enough pieces that my 4 year old (who also happens to be autistic and gets easily frustrated and gives up when things are too hard) can do these with little help."
4. This STEM Game With Marbles And Mazes
- For Ages: 8 years+
Not only does this marble run game build STEM skills, but it's really fun to play, too. It's basically like building a maze, only kids construct it from the ground up for an even bigger challenge. The set comes with nine towers, three marbles, a maze grid, and over 60 challenge options. Kids ages eight and older use the power of gravity and combine challenge rules with their own innovation and reasoning skills to get their marble through the maze. This popular game has more than 5,000 reviews. Reviewers agree that this game has been a life-saver, especially for kids that tend get bored easily.
Helpful Review: "My son is obsessed with this game. He loves figuring out each maze. It makes him use problem solving skills and logic. He choses this over video games! Now that is saying something."
5. This 7-Piece Puzzle Set That You Can Take On The Go
- For Ages: 5 years+
To keep kids busy when you're on the go, this 7-piece puzzle set is a must. Each puzzle is specially designed to activate your child's logic and reasoning skills in a different way. For example, the metal puzzle helps kids develop planning and reasoning skills as they try to unhook the metal pieces, while the colored ball puzzle requires them to think about details to fill in the shapes. Plus, all seven puzzles are small and lightweight, making them perfect to take when you're traveling. This game is recommended for ages five and up.
Helpful Review: "It is great for my 5 to 10 year old children. They are unique to most 3D puzzles I have seen before. They really do make you think. They are great [for] fine motor skill[s], and problem solving building tools."
6. A Sticker Matching Game That Makes Gorgeous Art
- For Ages: 5-9
This sticker book is an excellent quiet time activity that builds number sense while kids create. The highly rated game features 10 fairytale images that are broken into small, geometric shapes. Instead of coloring-by-number, kids match up the shape and number to the empty space in the image. As they fill up the page, they create gorgeous, multi-dimensional images that double as cute posters for their room. This pick has more than 1,000 reviews and is ideal for children ages five to nine. If unicorns aren't their favorite topic, this book always comes in a zoo animal theme, under the sea, and more.
Helpful Review: "My daughter was overjoyed to receive this activity book. The cover is sparkly, but doesn’t shed sparkles. The pages are intricate, and great for building fine motor skills and number sense. Each page takes over an hour to do, and the result is genuinely impressive. I love this as a no mess activity book that takes real time and has a final product that is pretty stunning.I recommend this for long flights or road trips. A great alternative to video games!"
7. An Interactive Guessing Game About Animals
- For Ages: 6 years+
If your kids love to talk, this highly rated interactive guessing game is sure to be a hit. It comes with 52 cards that include images and fun facts about animals around the world, along with six "clue cards" that kids (and parents) can use to ask questions and provide hints. The goal is to guess another player's animal in under 10 questions and win their card, which gives kids the opportunity to practice inferencing and expression skills. Plus, it's just fun! The recommended age for this game is six and older and can be played with two to six players.
Helpful Review: "At first we thought this was going to be WAY too easy for our 7 year old but when we actually started playing with her I realized how much she actually had to learn about how to ask good questions (there’s a difference between 'does it bark?' And 'is it a mammal?') and while she’s pretty up on animal knowledge it’s still been a fun challenge for her even with the clues!"
8. This OG Memory Game That's Fun For The Whole Family
- For Ages: 8 years+
This memory game is a classic for a good reason: it's simple to play and tons of fun for the whole family. Just pop in a few AAA batteries (which are included), turn on the disk, and you're good to go. Kids can stretch their memory skills by following Simon's lead and trying to remember its color-coded patterns. As the game goes on, the patterns get faster and more complex, constantly presenting them with fresh challenges and tons of fun. This game is recommended for ages eight and up.
Not only is Simon game super entertaining, but reviewers love how durable it is as well.
Helpful Review: "It's got one simple mode: remember the sequence as it gets longer and longer. It speeds up bit by bit and that's enough. But it has actual push-buttons and durability. In just a week, it's been dropped, punched, and pounded on by a few [kids] and I have confidence it will last for many years."