A year or so ago, my family discovered the National Geographic Channel show Brain Games. It isn’t perfectly family friendly, but there is much about it to love. We are a puzzle family and love Mad Libs, brain games, Ravensburger puzzles, etc. We love to exercise our mental muscles.
Several years ago we removed most of the toys from our home. We kept vintage toys and wholesome, creative toys. But anything with a character on it or batteries in it was most likely donated. As homeschoolers, we spend a lot of time in our home. I saw how certain toys were creating too much of the wrong kind of stimulation in my children and adversely affected their behavior. Over time, we have invested heavily in “series” toys that can be grouped together and pulled out as large, creative, and wholesome sets. We have tubs of Playmobils, K’Nex, Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys, Wedgits, wooden trains, gears, Snap Circuits and Legos. We also have two tubs of really smart “brain games”.
A few years ago, we snagged a particularly good Zulily holiday sale and “stole” many of these games for around $8 each. Knowing that they often would retail for double that, we grabbed as many as we could afford at the time and have since added to our collection as particularly good new ones have become available. I am going to share a list of our favorites, but this is in no way exhaustive of the quality options out there. Our local school supply store routinely has many of these on display, as do premium toy shops. If you aren’t sure about a game, investigate the toy vendors in your area and see if they have any to preview.
My favorite companies, generally, are these:
- Smart Games – These are my absolute favorite. Their wooden games have solid construction and old fashioned charm.
- ThinkFun – These seem to be the most prolific and have the most variety in style.
- Blue Orange Games – These are the most like a “board game.”
The first brain game that we ever purchased was Castle Logix from Smart Games. A German award winning game, it was easy to fall in love with the beautiful construction and the well organized challenges. Castle Logix stole our hearts and as soon as we knew about Camelot Junior, we nabbed it. From there, the door was open to us for brain games and we have never looked back. Our favorite Smart Games are:
- Castle Logix
- Camelot Junior
- Colour Code (one of my personal favorites)
- Smart Car
- Cannibal Monster
- IQ Twist (man, this one is HARD)
Blue Orange is an interesting little company that I want to learn more about. Their games are less individual and more a hybrid of brain games and multiplayer traditional games – and that works well for families! They have great videos (on their website, Youtube and Amazon) explaining most of their games in an instructive way and we have found that to be a selling point.
Our favorites include:
- Gobblet Gobblers (a 3D spin on tic tac toe)
- Pixy Cubes (a single or multiplayer game)
- Spot It Jr.
- Zimbbos (a single or multiplayer game)
One company I have little experience with, outside of a favorite game series, is Fox Mind. I probably need to learn more about this company, but, in the interim, they have offered a very special game series that will have long term value to our family: Architecto. Architecto comes in two formats: book with geoblocks or just a book. The series is a 3D architecture game using universal orange Geoblocks combined with a series of challenge books that get more complicated or challenging with each level. You only need one set of Geoblocks to complete the entire series, which is why the books are offered as a stand-alone purchase. We purchased Architecto as a set (not knowing about the others) when my son was four and he fell in love. From there, we started investing in the other levels with equal enjoyment.
- Equilibrio is labeled for ages 5+
- Tangramino is labeled for ages 6+
- Architecto is labeled for ages 7+
- Clicko is labeled for ages 8+
Do you have any favorite brain game companies that I don’t know about? I would love to learn about others and continue to build our library!