*Brought to you by Maureen Loftus from LearningRx Reston and LearningRx Tysons.
The winter holidays are fast approaching,
which means that most local children will be serving their parents with
mile-long wish lists in the next few weeks. Without a doubt, there will
be requests for video games, TV show box sets, and twenty different
iSomethings. Not only do these gifts do children few favors in terms of
preparing for the future, but they’re also expensive.
There are, however, plenty of fun toys that won’t rot your kids’ brains or break your budget. In fact, the toys on this list were chosen not only for their low cost, but also because they help develop complex learning skills, like memory, logic and reasoning, processing speed, attention, and auditory and visual processing.
Because parents are often the first to notice when their children have learning struggles, we’ve included which cognitive skills each toy strengthens. Do you have a child with ADHD? Look for toys that strengthen selective, divided, and sustained attention. Prepping your kindergartner to read? Choose toys that strengthen phonemic awareness (letter sounds) through rhyming, segmenting and sound blending. If you have a teenager who struggles to remember basic math facts, select games that include numerical fluency or memory challenges.
If you aren’t sure which skills your child should work on, another gift idea is a cognitive skills assessment. Tests like the Woodcock-Johnson Test of Cognitive Abilities can pinpoint your child’s intellectual strengths and weaknesses. To help more families give this meaningful gift, LearningRx Reston and LearningRx Tysons are offering this assessment for just $125 if you mention this article and set the appointment before December 15th.
In the meantime, the games below are a great way to give your child the gift of a stronger brain for under $20:
1. Deluxe Puzzle Wheel by Mudpuppy ($14.99)*
Includes a sorting pegboard, five wooden pegs and 25 shapes in various colors.
Ages: 24 months +
Cognitive Skills: visual processing, logic and reasoning, attention
2. Toddler Build and Play Cubes by LEGO ($11.59)*
These colorful, extra-large building pieces are perfect for toddlers who are just learning to build.
Ages: 18 months +
Cognitive Skills: visual processing, attention
3. Chain Letters by Patch Products ($18.88)*
Build words by hooking the letters together—but don’t drop the chain!
Cognitive Skills: sound blending, sound segmenting, attention
4. Spot it! by Blue Orange ($9.99)*
Find the symbol that each of two cards has in common. A fun, fast game for the entire family.
Cognitive Skills: attention, processing speed, visual processing
5. My First Math Ball—Numbers and Shapes by Exploracise ($14.95)*
Toss this soft ball indoors or out while you practice counting, basic math or learning shapes.
Ages: 1-5 years
Cognitive Skills: numerical fluency, attention
6. Show me the Kwan by Griddly Games ($19.99 on Amazon.com)*
Roll the dice and be the first to those the letter that matches the category for that round. Then earn points as you call out words where either the first, second or last letter corresponds to the letter that was rolled.
Cognitive Skills: auditory processing, visual processing, attention, processing speed
7. Match It! Spelling by The Learning Journey International ($10)*
Learn to spell three- and four-letter words by assembling the puzzle cards, which are self-correcting, as they only fit in the correct sequence.
Cognitive Skills: auditory processing, sound blending, planning
8. Clubs by North Star Games ($11.34)*
Get rid of all your cards as fast as possible while taking tricks with clubs in them to gather points. Comes with 60 cards with the four classic suits but no face cards.
Cognitive Skills: planning, logic and reasoning, attention, memory, strategy
9. Pluckin’ Pairs by R & R Games ($13.96)*
Try to predict what pairs other players will choose. If you’re correct, you’ll earn points. But you only have 90 seconds to choose your five pairs from the 11 random images on the table so do it quickly!
Cognitive Skills: processing speed, logic and reasoning, visual processing
10. Candy Puzzle by B. Dazzle ($9.61)*
Arrange the nine colorful 4”x4” pieces into a 12”x12” square to match the pieces’ edges and form a completed picture in every direction.
Cognitive Skills: visual processing, attention
11. Rhyming Words Dominoes by Trend Enterprises ($5.48)
Teach rhyming words with these domino-like cards. Includes 56 double-sided cards with words and pictures.
Cognitive Skills: sound segmenting, rhyming, auditory processing
12. Simon Electronic Carabiner by Basic Fun ($6.99)
This small, portable version of the original classic includes a carabiner clip to attach the belt loop or purse.
Cognitive Skills: auditory processing, visual processing, attention, memory, processing speed
13. Minute Math Electronic Flash Card by Learning Resources ($10.49)
This handheld gadget builds number fact fluency in timed and untimed modes with three levels of difficulty. Gives positive, corrective feedback (both visual and auditory).
Cognitive Skills: visual processing, auditory processing, math computations, processing speed
14. Sport Stacking Game—Stack Cups by Flying Cup ($8.99)
Stack in sequences as fast as you can. Compete against your own time and against friends.
Cognitive Skills: planning, processing speed, visual processing
15. Travel Battleship Fun on the Run by Hasbro ($15)
This classic tactical combat game is now perfect for car trips!
Cognitive Skills: logic and reasoning, planning, problem solving
16. LED Light Rubik’s Cube by Glodeals ($6.40)
This classic ‘80s brain twister now comes in a light-up version.
Cognitive Skills: planning, visual processing, problem solving, working memory
17. Sequence for Kids by Jax Ltd. ($13.69)
Play a card from your hand, place a chip on a character and aim for four in a row!
Cognitive Skills: logic and reasoning, planning, problem solving, sequential processing, visual processing, working memory
18. 4 In a Row by Pressman Toy ($12.13)
Be the first player to get four color disks in a row and you win!
Cognitive Skills: attention, logic and reasoning, executive processing, planning, sequential processing, problem solving
19. Bop-It Bounce by Hasbro ($10.05)
Follow the electronic commands to bounce at different skill levels – alone or against friends.
Cognitive Skills: auditory processing, planning, processing speed, attention
20. Mancala for Kids by Pressman Toy ($11.81)
With animal shapes instead of stones, this version of the centuries-old classic is still a gem.
Cognitive Skills: logic and reasoning, numerical concept, numerical fluency, planning, problem solving
* Maureen Loftus is the owner of LearningRx Reston and LearningRx Tysons, cognitive skills training centers that work with individuals to improve their learning ability through brain training. She is a mother who has seen her own children’s cognitive abilities improve greatly through LearningRx programs. LearningRx offers cognitive skills testing and intense one-on-one brain training that improves academic achievement, boosts self-esteem, and permanently increases IQ. For more information about these and other learning topics, contact LearningRx Reston at 703-689-0003 or LearningRx Tysons at 703-462-9570 and also you can check out the websites at www.learningrx.com/reston and www.learningrx.com/tysons.