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Board Games Increase Mental Skills

Increase Your Child's Mental Skills

How to increase your child's focus and concentration with board games.

For over five thousand years, humans have been working mental skills by playing games. Only recently, a lava-encrusted Monopoly Board was unearthed at an excavation site near Pompeii. Okay, so you shouldn’t believe everything you read. Nevertheless, games have been around a long time. And there’s a reason for this.

Games are a fun and exciting way to pass long, boring days with those we hold dear. Even kids who just play board games to pass the time on rainy days, have fun and learn new things. While teaching children mental and social skills, games also help keep kids out of trouble, which can make a mother’s job a good deal easier.

Games aren’t just for passing time with loved ones though. They’re also a great way to promote social interaction among kids who have just met one another.

Games challenge us intellectually – whether we’re children or adults, and enrich our lives in many ways. Over the last 20 years, science has demonstrated that games can improve the brain’s ability to think and solve problems. Just as weight lifting can make your muscles stronger and your heart healthier, playing games on a regular basis can increase cognitive functioning on a measurable scale.

Neurogenisis: Through a process called neurogenesis, proteins, enzymes, and stem cells all work in tandem to actually GROW new brain cells (neurons). New interconnections between old cells, along with the growth of new ones, helps the brain work faster, more accurately, and more efficiently. Those who play games regularly report feeling better and more alert overall than those who don’t play games.

Plasticity: Science used to hold that the number of our brain cells was set by around age 12, and then declined after that. Any change afterwards was only for the worse. But we now know that this isn’t the case. More than any other organ or part of the body, our brain has an amazing ability to repair itself, adapt, and improve throughout our lifespans.

If the brain is injured in an accident or stroke, it can often generate new cells and create new interconnections and neural pathways between and around the injured areas. Scientists call this plasticity. But we’ve also learned it doesn’t require injury for new brain cells to form. These responses can also be stimulated by a person’s environment. In other words, you can actually increase your brain’s volume and efficiency by partaking in certain activities, particularly – yes! You guessed it! – by playing games and working puzzles.

But just as your muscles can get soft and flabby from lack of use, your brain can also shrink and become less efficient from lack of stimulation. It’s the old, “use it or lose it” adage. Many children who’ve suffered through long months of Covid lockdowns have seen their test scores in all subjects drop precipitously.

The Good News: The good news is, the damage caused by injury or lack of use can be reversed. Just as exercises like pumping iron increase muscle mass, so too can mental exercise sharpen memory, increase focus and efficiency, and elevate mood. And games are one type of activity that can accomplish this.


What Kind of Games? Games should challenge and exercise a broad spectrum of cognitive skills. Playing the same game all the time won’t stimulate as broad a set of skills as playing an assortment of games. Skills such as learning and processing new information, multitasking, long-term memory, or processing speed, can all be improved through a wide array of challenges and activities. The best way to accomplish this is through a wide assortment of games.

Difficulty: If you want to move your bench press up from 100 pounds, you won’t do it by benching sets with 20 pounds. In the same way, if you want to improve your child’s cognitive ability, you wouldn’t do it by having them read a book they’ve already read or play a game they’ve already mastered. The idea here is to find an optimal level of difficulty, and then gradually increase the level of difficulty. In other words, if your child has mastered checkers, it might be time to introduce them to chess.

Once again, games are about more than fun. They allow our children to broaden their mental skills, interact better with their siblings and peers, and occupy themselves in a way that isn’t harming themselves or society. For returns as valuable as these, it’s worth the investment.

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