Inside: When purchasing toys for your kids choose ones that build their brains, spark their imaginations and get them thinking on all four cylinders. Here are some ideas for the “best brain-building toys in the world.”
The holidays are upon us and the frenzied gift-giving chaos is in full swing. The big question for parents is always: “What do we get the kids that will be meaningful, something they will love and play with and…something that they don’t already have?”
Stop right there. It’s time for a paradigm shift.
Repeat after me: “I want to get my kids’ toys that will spark their imagination and creativity, and build brain cells. Toys that will get them thinking, moving, and keep them learning.”
In other words, you want a list of the best brain-building toys in the world.
When I was a kid, my favorite toys were my blocks. I spent hours building and creating things with those blocks. Did you know that parents rarely purchase blocks anymore for their kids?
In fact, cultural critic Roland Barthes lamented in the 1970s that the wooden block’s children used to play with were in decline, and it was sad because now children were taught to be users and not creators.
Playing with the Right Toys Builds Creativity
Childhood is a time to help your children learn to express their inner-self so those creative juices will continue into their adult lives.
How do you do this? Supply them with toys that nurture their creativity, stimulate their imaginations and teach them to be creators and not just users.
Keep in mind a child playing is a child working. Play is their “job.”
Therefore, you want toys that prime her/his brain for learning. The toys suggested below will do just that.
Also, when purchasing toys for your children, you want toys that get them moving in some way (in other words, you don’t want toys where they just stare at a screen and move their fingers).
It’s funny, but the two things that help children to learn is music and movement.
What two things have most schools taken out of the K-5 curriculum?
Music and movement.
So, parents—the toys you purchase for your kids should require movement. And for an added benefit, turn on music.
I interviewed educational therapist Alene Villaneda, owner of Integrated Learning Strategies regarding the best toys for children that will build their brains, enhance their ability to think and encourage interactive play.
Here is a list of 10 toys and games she suggests.
The Best Brain-Building Toys in the World
Toy #1: Kidoozie Super Skipper (Musical Hop Skipper)
This skipper makes a pretty cool playmate on a day when your child is alone. But it can also be played with a friend. The electronic base has 2 telescoping poles that rotate in 3 different speeds for jumping to a rhythm. The different speeds allow you to adjust the skipper to gradually go faster.
Your child keeps up with the spinning poles and accompanying music by jumping in time and avoiding stepping on the poles. This operates on the same principle as an old-fashioned jump rope. As far as storage, the game folds up for easy storage.
Ages: 3 years and up
How it builds the brain: As your child jumps over the pole to a rhythm, he is basically doing brain exercises that include timing, rhythm, balance, and coordination. Keep in mind—anything that helps with timing and balance helps to organize the brain. And an organized brain is able to focus and concentrate better.
Toy #2: Boomwhackers
Think colored PVC pipe and with a few changes (actually a lot of changes) you have Boomwhackers.
Boomwhackers are eight musically tuned percussion tubes. To play, each person holds one or two of these tubes and whacks them against his arm, thigh, or any hard surface to produce a sound. The harder the surface, the brighter the sound will be. The tubes are various lengths and will produce various tones.
They are available in diatonic and chromatic scales as well as treble extension, bass diatonic, pentatonic, and with octavator caps.
Ages: Learning to play these percussion tubes is amazingly fun for children of all ages. They can be played individually, but it is recommended that the tubes are played as a group, which means they are great for families and classroom settings.
How it builds the brain: They take some practice, but they are perfect for building a sense of rhythm and timing which in turn organizes the brain. And again, lays the foundation for a child to learn more easily.
Here is a fun video of fifth-grade school kids playing, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” with boomwhackers.
Toy #3: Perplexus Rookie
Perplexus is a plexiglass ball and inside is 22 feet worth of challenging twists, turns, and obstacles. If you think it is easy to master the challenge of the crazy, fun world of the Perplexus ball—think again. You have to flip, twist, and spin to move the ball along the numbered path.
The more your child plays with it, the more they see that this game is a bendy, trendy, can’t-put- it-down challenge. Even though it is easy to fall off the track, playing with this ball is addicting and fun.
There are multiple levels of difficulty to master. Try the Perplexus Rookie, Perplexus Epic, and Perplexus Twist. They’re easy to play, but hard to master.
A Word to the Wise: My oldest son Jason and his wife Tiffany love playing games with their kids. They purchased the Perplexus and it was TOUGH! At one point, they considered throwing it against the wall. However, they purchased the highest level of the game instead of starting with the easiest one.
So, start with the easiest Perplexus ball and avoid frustration (which means you start with Perplexus Rookie).
Ages: Recommended for ages five and up.
How it builds the brain: The game helps with visual tracking which in turn helps with reading. When a child reads, they track words from left to right. This game will improve your children’s tracking ability and hence their reading.
Toy #4: Qwirkle
Qwirkle is a simple game of matching colors and shapes. But it also requires tactical maneuvers and well-planned strategy.
You earn points by building rows and columns of blocks that share a common shape or color. And you want to be on the lookout for opportunities to score big by placing a tile that touches multiple pieces with matching attributes. The player with the most points wins!
If your child is learning shapes and colors—this is fun to play. If they already know their shapes and colors, they will love the strategy involved in this game.
It includes 108 wooden blocks.
Ages: Two to four players; ages 6 and up
How it builds the brain: These help with patterning and associating different symbols. It’s like scrabble, but rather than using letters, your child connects with shapes and colors. This type of game translates into better math skills because it focuses on a spatial organization—which is what higher levels of math require. It also helps kids form pictures in their minds-eye—another form of spatial awareness and problem-solving skills. (btw; learning to play a musical instrument also increases spatial awareness)
Toy #5: Ankle Skipper
This is an oldie-but-goodie for good reason. The Skipper has kept up with on-the-go kids for generations and is a fun way for kids to build coordination and balance (and to burn energy).
This updated version’s built-in revolution counter and six flashing LEDs kick the fun up a notch, so kids can cook up friendly competitions with themselves or other kids.
Ages: For ages 5 and up
How it builds the brain: It helps with coordination, timing and gross motor skills. It also helps to organize the brain which is foundational for learning. As a result, your child will be able to focus and concentrate better.
Toy #6: Infinite Loop
If you want some one-on-one fun for your child—Infinite Loop is the answer. It’s a great toy for your child to play while you are busy, but it is also great for your child to play with when you are fixing dinner, but you still want to see and be involved with what they are doing.
The idea of the game is to grip the two handles to open and close the track and have the ball run through the tracks without having the ball fall off the track.
Ages: 4 and up
How it builds the brain: Infinite Loop is great for coordination and hand-eye movement. It also helps with visual tracking when you use the figure 8. Anything that helps with tracking is going to help your child with reading. Reading requires hand-eye movement, tracking, and coordination.
Toy #7: Magna- Tiles
If your children love Legos, they will love Magna-Tiles because they provide hours of inspiration and fun.
They are magnetic and fit together in all different ways, shapes, and forms. If you are looking for something to nurture your child’s creativity, look no further. Not only are they inspirational, fun and entertaining, they are also the perfect educational toy for school-age children that will never go out of style (just like Legos).
This is a toy kids can play by themselves or with friends and have equal the fun. Magna-Tiles are easy to construct and easy to put away for storage. Unlike most toys, each tile piece can be replaced and more tiles can always be added to build objects as big as desired.
Ages: 2 and up
How it builds the brain: Playing with Magna-Tiles helps to build the visual/spatial areas of the brain. Because they are putting together shapes, your child will develop patterning, shape recognition, building, and fine motor skills.
You want your children to be problem-solvers. As they create things with the tiles, they learn problem-solving skills that translate into brighter kids.
Can Legos do the same thing? Just about. Magna-Tiles gives your child another avenue for building more intricate shape recognition and patterning.
ALERT: something similar to Magna Tiles is Magformers. Each week before the holidays, Amazon advertises “specials” Today only (November 13, 2017), these are on sale for 50% off. Click here for the link
Toy #8: Hoppity Ball
Thicker than other brands, the Hoppity Hop is the greatest and “funnest” way for kids to exercise without even knowing it. It is guaranteed to help your kid’s burn off that extra energy. For additional fun, try an adult size Hippity Hop to bounce along your child, after all, adults can share the fun, too. Right?
Ages: Recommended for ages three and up
How it builds the brain: This toy helps with balance and brain organization. When babies crawl, that crawling movement helps to organize the brain. The up-and-down movement of this ball also helps to organize the brain for better learning.
Toy #9: Neon Dart Ball Game
I purchased two of these dart games for my grandchildren and they love them! You inflate the circle to create a 24” dart ball board. Then hang it from a wall. The idea is to throw the dart balls (which have Velcro) onto the board. It includes 24″ target and 3 dart balls
Ages: 5 and up
How it builds the brain: The game develops hand-eye coordination—an important movement for reading.
Toy #10: Speed Sports Stacking Cups
Sports Stacking Cups have become an international phenomenon! Parent and kids of all ages love to stack these cups at lightning speed. Your child can get hooked on these and who knows—you may want to enter into a Sports Stacking Competition.
My grandkids love these and have spent hours playing with them. With a little practice, you can become pretty proficient at doing this game.
Check out this video showing kids of all ages doing sports stacking. It’s amazing fun for the entire family. (be sure to get the actual speed sports stacking cups and not the imposters–follow the link I’ve provided)
Click this link for: 2010 World Sport Stacking Championship Opening Video
Ages: 3 and up
How it builds the brain: Sports Stacking Cups helps with rhythm, timing, movement, and coordination. It’s a pretty amazing game that helps the child build brain cells in so many areas and translates into reading readiness, math, and problem-solving skills.
Hopefully, these toy ideas will act as a springboard for your holiday shopping. Your kids will love these toys–and they will build their brains while they’re having fun.
Stay tuned next week for: “The Best Brain-Building Games for Tweens and Teens”
If you have any questions—email me. I’m here to help.
You can watch the 2-minute video of the blog here