If I were stranded on a desert island, I would want to have chocolate and a few critical thinking games, so I could stay sharp and engineer my way home. Hopefully my kids would be with me as well – I’d hate to play checkers indefinitely with a coconut.
I recently challenged my five-year-old son to a game of Othello. While I no longer intentionally let my kids win, I do let them choose their coloured pieces from time to time. Democracy and all that.
Me: Hey buddy – do you want to play Othello with me?
Me: Which colour do you want to be – black or white?
Landon: I want to be the colour that wins.
Wonder where he gets his cheekiness from?
What is it about board games that makes an everyday Mom like me feel like I’m in a Norman Rockwell painting? Whether it be for family time or as a reward for kids getting pyjamas on quickly, a good old fashioned board game can bring life into a home. And while Candyland had its place, it is refreshing to move onto games that encourage critical thinking (sorry, not sorry, Candyland).
Bonus tip: I like to casually leave a board game on the table or ottoman. Children gravitate towards a game if it is in plain sight and not tucked away.
Critical Thinking Games
Board games can help children develop critical thinking skills in the following ways:
- Planning and strategizing is important, rather than focusing only on the current situation
- Logic and reason are key elements to succeeding in carefully selected games
- Score-keeping can involve higher order math skills
The following is an excerpt from Parenting Science:
“…make board games a more powerful learning tool [by teaching] kids that problem-solving ability is like a muscle: it can be strengthened with practice and learning. And kids might make [even] more improvements if we encourage them to explain their tactics or the tactics they see others use.”
So gather mind-stimulating games, and encourage discussion on strategy while your child is playing. Here is a list of some of our favourite critical thinking games to get you started.
There are many versions of the Rush Hour game, and they are all great. Rush Hour Jr. asks kids to free the ice cream truck from a traffic jam. What child doesn’t want to be an ice cream truck freeing hero?
Each version of Rush Hour comes with 40 activity cards with various levels of difficulty. To make this game more competitive, create a family chart to see who can solve the most challenges within a certain time frame (say, a week).
Purchase Rush Hour here.
I love the three-dimensional aspect of this game. Kids place the blue, green and yellow blocks according to the challenge cards. Even setting up these blocks is an excellent spatial challenge for young ones.
Players then need to tip over the crates and get the figure to safety on the red crate.
Purchase Tipover here.
The twist is that your pieces can “gobble” other pieces, as long as your piece bigger. So a larger piece can cover a medium or small-sized piece and so on.
The trick is to remember which pieces are covered, and to strategize to complete the task. Purchase Gobblet here.
Frogs are placed to match the challenge cards. Like peg solitaire, frogs jump over one another (onto lily pads) until only one frog is left.
Purchase Hoppers Solitaire here
Codenames is the newest game to me this year and we are slightly addicted. Each player gives a single word clue and the field operatives have to guess which cards the clue relates to. Play with young children who can operate at an abstract level. Our youngest gave me the clue “sparkly” to refer to cards containing diamond, water and teeth.
Creating and receiving clues is excellent exercise for critical thinking skills.
Purchase Codenames here.
This game is highly recommended for critical thinking skills. It takes about an hour to play and is perfect for 2-6 players.
The aim of Power Grid is to supply power to the most cities. You need to mark preexisting routes between cities for connection, and then bid against each other to purchase the power plants. Players need raw materials to power these plants. Watch out for the problems that come from expanding too quickly.
Expansion pack cards are also available, which add to the longevity of this game.
Purchase Power Grid here.
Kids need to figure out how to make the “laser beam” ricochet correctly to light up the target. They can use mirrored pieces, beam splitters and logic. Perfect game for improving STEM skills. Purchase Laser Maze here.
In an era of hustle and bustle, games are one of the best ways to slow down the pace. Whether your child plays something on their own, or gathers a few siblings, there are countless benefits including developing critical thinking skills.
Especially if they find themselves stranded on an island one day.
Any favourites I missed here? Add to the comments and I’ll keep updating the list. In the meantime, enjoy these too: