Planning for Next Year? Add Puzzles and Games!

If you’re like me, this is the time of year you love to scour used book sales for the next school year’s big find. Who knew there was a whole set of Little House on the Prairie books on the bottom of that pile?

There is a plethora of educational studies that strongly connect brain development and problem solving skills like: ordering, comparing, contrasting, evaluating and selecting. The same skills kids use for solving puzzles.

Puzzles develop eye-hand coordination and small motor skills in young children. They enhance sequencing, patterns, and memory skills-all necessary for higher forms of mathematics, computer use, and technology.

There are puzzles on geography, the solar system, parts of anatomy, famous artists and their works, and bilingual numbers and letters. Adding knowledge based puzzles also deepens the learning potential.

But Puzzles aren’t the only fun way to bolster learning success. Incorporating board games into your school time also hosts a cornucopia of advantages. I had the privilege to test and review over 25 educational games and this is what I found:

Language Arts: A fun new award winning game is You’ve Been Sentenced! Build zany sentences that are grammatically correct and make sense or you will be “sentenced”. Other classic words games are Boggle, Scrabble, and Alphabet Bingo.

Critical Thinking Skills and Problem Solving: Games in this category include: Stratego, Blokus and a current favorite of many, Settlers of Catan, for ages 8 and up, which enhances probability calculations, negotiation, planning, and risk.

Creativity: This is the other half of problem solving skills which encourages a child to find solutions by thinking outside of the box. This is critical in business, communications, and entrepreneurship. Pitch It! is for ages 13 and up, although our 10-year-old loved it! This my hands down favorite where kids must create a product, slogan, and logo to pitch to an unusual people group, such as marketing barbeque grills to opera singers.

Social Studies and Science: History can be enhanced with 1812-The Invasion of Canada ( for ages 10 and up. Learn facts about the war while setting up your battle pieces and strategize to win the game

Nutrition and Manners: A great way other than workbooks to learn about nutrition is to play MyPlate Bingo ( for ages 9 and up. It encourages eating nutrition-dense foods with important questions, such as “What are gluten-free grains and added sugars?” Responsibility Bingo for grades 1-5 ( teaches character skills like responsibility and respect. There are even games to learn manners for ages 5 and up with Blunders, and fun Manner Mats placemats ( to reinforce them at dinner time.

Board games are rich in learning opportunities: Language Arts, spelling, vocabulary, reading, math, strategy, problem solving, and critical thinking. As an added bonus they also build social skills, encourage fair play, taking turns, being a good sport, and learning to stay within boundaries. They can also satisfy healthy competition or the desire to master a new skill.