Brain Exercises for Kids

Infants come into the world with more than 100 billion brain cells and quickly begin building connections between them. This network of connections becomes the foundation for skills we use throughout our lives. You can help your children get a head start with brain exercises, which help children to develop these pathways and organize brain functions so that they can learn more easily. You can adapt the level of difficulty in these games, depending on your child’s age and your assessment of his abilities.

Coin Game

You can help children increase their focus with memory games. One example is the coin game. Place a pile of coins on a table, select five and place them in a row. Let the child stare at the coin sequence for a short time, then cover the coins with a piece of cardboard and ask the child to recreate the sequence from memory using additional coins from the pile. As the child improves her ability to recreate the pattern, you can increase the level of difficulty by using a greater variety of coins or making a longer string of coins. Of course the game is more fun if you build in a reward for points scored.

Brain Obstacle Courses

A brain obstacle course combines physical and mental exercise. Set up a series of stations where children must complete a mental task, such as a crossword, a memory challenge or a math problem, before proceeding to the next stage in the race. If your space is limited, you can reduce the physical aspect of the exercise by lining up the brain challenges in a relatively short space and eliminating the running aspect of the race.

Eye Tracking

To improve a child’s attention and focus, take two similar but differently colored objects, such as pencils, crayons or small balls, and hold them about 16 inches in front of the child’s face and about a shoulder’s width apart. Instruct the child to look at one of the objects, then after several seconds, tell him to look at the other. Continue alternating between the two objects, but change the length of time the child stares at each. The child scores a point each time he follows the directions, but loses a point if he shifts his gaze before being directed to do so.

Search Games

Search games come in several different formats. One version is a table of letters with hidden words that the child must find and circle. Another version is a picture with objects hidden within the more obvious components of the scene. A third is a picture with things that are “wrong” that the child must identify. These types of games improve attention, focus and sequencing abilities. You can purchase books with these puzzles, or find them online.)

Positive Imagery

Imagining ourselves being successful really can make it come true. Just as adults mentally practice for job interviews or sporting endeavors, children can increase their skills by mentally rehearsing being successful. For example, a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) might imagine being fully attentive in class, or a child who is socially challenged might imagine interacting at a party with schoolmates. This mental practice helps the child learn new skills in a no-risk environment.

About this Author

A retired senior federal executive, Mary Bauer has extensive experience in writing and editing for senior U.S. government audiences, including the White House, since 1984. She holds a Master of Arts in French from George Mason University and a Bachelor of Arts in English, French and international relations from Aquinas College.