by John Fisher
If your child had to choose between memorizing time’s tables and solving brain teasers, which activity would yours pick? Kids often gravitate toward games rather than work activities. But did you know that brain teasers aren’t just for fun? They can also help improve children’s memories.
The Hidden Lesson
Educators have long known that students find their studies more enjoyable if they are presented in the form of games. (Think back to your own childhood—you know it too.) Drilling those times tables becomes more exciting when there’s a number puzzle to solve using multiplication facts. Reviewing states and capitals is more fun when a memory matching game is at stake, especially when competing against other players. Not only do these games test students’ knowledge, they reinforce what they know and remind them of what they need to work on.
“If you add novelty to a study experience it will be more memorable,” says Dr. Judy Willis of Psychology Today. So besides making review more enjoyable, children are more likely to remember information associated with a game. For instance, if two teams spend several rounds trying to remember where the card with the capital of Wisconsin is, the kids may be more likely to remember the correct answer (Madison) when they finally find it.
Enhanced Memory Abilities
Brain teasers that test an older child’s ability to predict the next symbol in a pattern may not seem directly related to anything they’re learning in school. But the mental abilities children develop from brain teasers can be far reaching. “When your children recognize relationships between new and prior knowledge their brains can link the new information with a category of existing knowledge for long-term storage,” says Dr. Willis.
Children who are accustomed to solving puzzles and recognizing complex patterns in brain teasers may be more adept at relating new information to the knowledge they already have. Again, Dr. Willis states, “Children must care enough about information or consider it personally important, for it to go through the brain filters and be stored as memory.” When a child is able to make new information personally relevant by relating it to their existing knowledge, they are more likely to remember it.
Fun Reduces Stress
Kids who love brain teasers may find another benefit to solving them: relaxation. “Stress is a serious obstacle to good memory,” says Ronit Baras, an education specialist and life coach. “Many kids fail their exams because of stress.”
Allowing your kids to unwind after a hectic day can help them prepare for more learning. And if brain teasers help your child unwind, then so much the better; the added benefits of brain teasers can make it time well spent. However, if brain teasers stress your child out, or if your child simply does not want to work brain teasers, the potential for relaxation disappears.
Where to Find Brain Teasers
The Internet is full of riddles, codes, puzzles, and other brain teasers on all levels. Books of brain teasers may be as close as your local bookstore or library. Your child’s teacher may also be willing to share some enrichment activities that pertain to their schoolwork.
Wherever you find them, brain teasers can effectively help improve children’s memory abilities and other thinking skills. While you’re at it, you might try a few yourselves. You might be surprised at how well brain teasers wake up your own mental abilities.