Have you ever thought about the fact that games can be healthy? It's true–health can be fun even when we're talking about kids' health! Along those lines, let's take some time today to look at something a little different than what I normally write about here, (or maybe not so different): the benefits of brain games for kids.
Healthy living includes a healthy brain. I mean for sure, right? Your brain does more than just think–it controls basically everything that you do.
If your brain isn't healthy, then not much can be healthy.
So in order to have overall health, it's important to find out what you can do to have a healthy brain, and then do it.
Why I'm Writing about Brain Games for Kids and Brain Health
Recently a friend talked to me about brain games for kids. She sent me an ebook about brain games for kids and we talked about how this type of game can be healthy for kids' brains. I was intrigued on several levels.
First of all, I just hadn't made the connection. I mean, I had heard about research that brain games were good to protect against aging diseases like Alzheimer's, but I never had thought about how the same type of games could actually be good for kids.
Funny isn't it? I'm talking about brain games and how they are good for brains, but also talking about how my brain didn't make that connection :).
Anyhow, I asked her to send me a copy of her book to try it out with my family, and it was fun. Of course I can't really measure the benefits to our brains' health, but what I can say is that we all enjoyed it–it was a fun diversion to pull out in the middle of a stressful day or as a family activity during dinner or at night.
Our youngest really enjoyed the activities–actually both of my boys did, and my husband thought they were a lot of fun. He loves this kind of thing!
Also, it's a great alternative to the typical video game / screen time that most families default to, so in that sense doing some kind of game like this is healthy too to help you have good communication skills, good eye contact, etc., which are all things that lead to good social skills which leads to good health too. I told my friend that I wanted to share this whole concept with my readers, and so here we are.
So let's get back to talking about different ways that you can keep your brain healthy.
How to Keep Your Brain Healthy
Treating your brain right from the inside out is a great first step, so a healthy diet is very important. There are many things that make for a healthy diet, and it's not the same for everyone, but getting enough nutrients into your diet is one crucial step. This post on getting simple superfoods into your diet is one good place to start.
You also want to be sure you get enough sleep at night. Going through your day without proper sleep can be like operating under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
It can make it difficult to concentrate, lower your reaction time and make you more susceptible to accidents. Sleep is so very important, and most people just simply don’t get enough of it.
If you have trouble in this area, try some natural helps for a good night's sleep so that your brain (and everything else) can be healthier.
Protect Your Brain Physically
What are some other things you can do to take care of your brain? It sounds obvious, but protecting it from physical injury is also really important. You should of course wear a safety helmet when riding a bike or skating and of course when playing any kind of contact sport. And of course you should wear a protective hard hat if you’re doing anything like construction-type work.
The same goes for children – always ensure they wear proper safety gear to protect them from brain injury. We actually have talked about this a lot with our kids. There is a local group that hands out free sports tickets to kids who promise to wear their bike helmets whenever they bike, and our boys have both played hockey (their league is non checking, so it is not much of an issue for them), which has been part of the focus of some of the really bad news about concussions and sports these days.
Yes, brain health is serious business. Too many hits to the head and your life can be changed forever.
Exercise Your Brain
Just like you can exercise your body, you can also “exercise” your brain with fun games and activities that help flex and strengthen your brain.
This has been suggested for adults as a way to help prevent dementia or Alzheimer’s, but it can also have benefits to children, even those who are still growing.
Some will say that these games are like having a personal trainer for your brain. So, how does this idea of brain games for brain health work for kids and how can we “get buff brains” so to speak?
Let's find out.
How Brain Games Help Kids Develop
Brain games are a great way to help kids in their development. Children’s brains are growing at a rapid rate. The younger the child, the easier it can be to learn certain things. This is why children who are taught a secondary language at a young age are more likely to retain it than those who attempt to learn new languages later in life.
Brain games are a wonderful way to help your children develop their growing brains. It can help strengthen certain skills like memory and even improve concentration. ChildMind.org tells us:
According to SharpBrains, a neuro-wellness research firm, spending on brain fitness hardware and software hit $1.3 billion in 2013 and is expected to reach $6 billion by 2020. And while most of these brain games are aimed at baby boomers, kids account for about 20% of the revenues from companies like Lumosity, Cogmed, Posit Science, and others.
Here are some ways that brain teasers and games are helpful to developing brains:
- Help improve problem-solving skills
- Train their memory
- Help improve concentration
- Improve pattern recognition
- Enhance spatial recognition
- Improve visual perception
- Increase reaction time
As you can see, these brain games can be more than good fun. They can also be a great way to train the brain and strengthen your muscle memory and thinking skills.
Learning is always easier when it’s fun; and brain games make learning these skills seem like nothing more than a fun game. Your children may not even realize they are building brain skills in the process. Imagine being able to naturally increase your child’s brain’s ability to sustain attention, improve memory, and increase self-control, all through fun games that they enjoy playing?
These brain training games help more than that, though. They can also be helpful with children with ADHD. Let’s talk about how this is the case.
Brain Games and ADHD
If brain games can help kids develop their cognitive skills, then it also makes sense that they could be useful to children with ADHD. Since ADHD is basically an executive function disorder that affects memory, cognitive flexibility, and reasoning skills, it's a logical step to think that brain games can help with the condition.
Does your ADHD child struggle with forgetfulness?
Do you have to remind them often to do their chores or pick up their room?
Does your child forget to brush his teeth or turn in his homework when he goes back to school?
These are common issues that parents of ADD kids report.
Maybe your child also has issues with being too impulsive.
Does she speak without thinking first?
Does she interrupt others often?
Again, these are common symptoms of ADD.
Common treatments for ADHD include stimulant medications, which may seem contradictory to the nature of ADHD since when you look at these kids it seems that the last thing they need is a stimulant. Along those same lines, since their brains are already overactive, it might surprise you to know that brain games and enhanced brain tasks can help with symptoms of ADHD, too.
One notable quote about this topic is this. Speaking to ADDitude Magazine, Dr. Amit Etkin of Stanford University said:
The potential for brain training as a new therapeutic tool [for ADD] is phenomenal.
Allowing your child with ADD to do brain teasers and play brain games can actually help improve the symptoms of ADD, especially when combined with other treatments for the condition, such as this gut help for ADHD. It’s a great way for them to practice valuable skills needed in school and in other areas of life.
So, now that you know more about the amazing things brain games can do for kids, let’s take a look at where you can find some of these games so that you and your kids can start playing (and training) today.
Following are some options for great brain games/brain teasers suitable for kids (and adults too!)
Four Great Brain Games for Kids
- Brain Teasers for Kids eBook – This is the eBook that my friend shared with me. It has a bunch of fun (and I must say, mind-bending) brain teasers to help build the brain muscle and improve thinking skills in your kids–they really get you thinking! It's been really fun for us to bring this out at various times and try to figure them out as a family. If you try it I'd love to hear what you thought about it.
- Book of Brain Games for Kids (Amazon) – Here’s a great book full of games for kids’ brains.
- Fun Brain Game Websites – One great example of this is funbrain.com. There are many games and puzzles kids can enjoy on websites just like this. Give your kids a good reason to be on those computers and tablets.
- Brain Apps like Lumosity and Elevate – Depending on the ages of your kids and their skill level, these apps could appeal to them and will really help develop their brain power. They are also really helpful for the ADD brain and can build focus and concentration levels.
And there are many more to choose from. Once you start looking, you'll see that there are loads of good resources out there.