Toys to build the child's mind
Throw away the video games. Here are some real games that will build your child's mind.
This is a Scrabble-like game that is much quicker, and more stressful. You play against 2-6 people. Each person picks tiles and the object is to put them all in a crossword puzzle. The interesting thing is that sometimes you have to rearrange the entire crossword puzzle to fit a new letter in. It is like scrabble, but you build your own puzzle and often change it. Smaller words are an advantage. Ages 7 and up.
If you had told me that one could see the moons of Jupiter with a 37 dollar telescope, I would not have believed it. Though to be honest the moons are tiny dots. For the price of a toy, one gets a nice beginner reflector scope. I could see craters on the moon and Jupiter looks orangish to me. The scope requires parent supervision. Never let a child look at the sun with a telescope or binoculars (I read they can lose sight almost instantly). Ages 7 and up.
The game consists of building blocks of various shapes, a knight, and princess; and a puzzle booklet. Each page has a few blocks set up and a list of allowable blocks. You have to figure out how to arrange the blocks so the knight can rescue the princess. Ages 4 and up.
A great 3-D puzzle game Ages 6 and up.
Go is the Asian answer to chess. Only recently have computers been able to beat Go grandmasters, which tells you that is some respects it is a lot more complicated than chess. On the other hand it is quite easy to learn the basic moves. I wish I had learned this game as a child. It is played on a board with stones of two colors. The object is to carve out territory and surround and capture the opponent's stones. There are a million derived, simple games based on Go. Ages 7 and up.
Don't look online for the solution to this famous puzzle. If you do, I feel it will wipe out most of the benefits. The goal should be to try to figure out the mathematical pattern oneself. The solution is actually related to a field of abstract algebra called Group Theory. Ages 7 and up.
Legos doesn't really need a review. These days, however, I think parents overlook it in favor of high tech toys that flash and buzz. This Duplo set has blocks that are big enough so infants and toddlers won't choke on them. Ages 1 and up.
This is a good Lego starter set. It comes with 400 pieces. Just tell your child not to dump the entire box! The piece are small enough to choke on. Ages 4 and up.
This has got to be the best game since chess. This original version of the game is best played with 4 players (it is possible to play with 2 and 3, though there is another version more suited for 2). The object is to place as many geometric tiles down as possible, subject to some constraints, of course. Ages 5 and up.
This game consists of geometric shapes and a puzzle booklet. Each page has a completed planer complex shape, and the object is to form that shape using the simple geometric shapes. Ages 4 and up.
This game is a simple version of an extremely complicated game played in Asia called Go. The object here is to line up 5 marbles in a row, but there is a twist: each part of the board can rotate ninety degrees. Ages 5 and up.
A neat ball maze that is enclosed in a plastic sphere. I don't recommend dropping it too many times. Ages 5 and up. It is a 3-d maze that you twist and turn and let gravity move a small ball. This is really a clever idea.
This is the world's most difficult knot to untangle. It is made up of many intertwined rings. The object is to separate them. A young child will not be able to solve this. Neither will you. That is not the point. The benefit will come from spending years thinking about the problem. It is similar to the Rubik cube. Once one learns the trick, it is trivial, so don't learn the trick. Try to discover it yourself. Ages 7 and up.
The purpose of this game is to solve 40 traffic jam logic puzzles. Ages 8 and up.
In a recent study of senior citizens, those that played chess had the least amount of brain deterioration. Chess is probably the greatest strategy game. It really helps train your brain to increase working memory (how many distinct things can you consider in your mind at once; very closely correlated to IQ score). Ages 6 and up.