Inside: Do you want to enhance your kids’ memory and overall learning ability? The list of ideas below contains our favorite memory games and activities.
What I love about memory and learning, in general, is that it’s limitless… We can always learn something new, remember a little bit more, and enhance our mental abilities at any time of life.
What surprises me, though, is that we neglect to share the science of memory with our children, play memory games, and just, in general, actively teach them how to be good at learning.
Of course, most kids figure out how to go about learning as they move through the school years. But we can help them to be even more effective and efficient learners by … yep, playing games. The researchers who focus on how our brains learn best found that to be successful learners, we need to be motivated, curious, and focused. It means we’re in peak learning mode when we play fun games!
I don’t think so.
Nurturing and strengthening our kids’ brain functioning by playing games doesn’t only benefit them; it can be a creative, innovative outlet for us. Besides improving your kids’ memory, critical thinking skills, and learning abilities, the games on this list will have you laughing, sharing fun times, and learning together. What’s not to like about that?
Note: This article is about great memory games you can buy. If you would rather go the DIY way, I recently put together an extensive list of simple memory games and activities that you can simply download for free or put together with items you already have in your home.
Disclaimer: This post contains Amazon affiliate links. For more information, read my full disclosure policy.
Games and Activities to Enhance Memory & Learning
This memory game is light, portable, and easy for small hands to hold. In other words, it’s great on the go: in the car, waiting for the siblings’ gymnastics class to be over, or when you need your kid to wait while you finish up something on the computer. Don’t worry; there is a silent mode if you need to keep it quiet, along with standard and advanced modes.
As you start the game, one of the buttons on the screen lights up. As soon as you push it, the next button lights up. The trick is to memorize which buttons you already pushed (location and color) and not push them again for the duration of the round. Can your kids hold 21 pieces of information in their mental space to complete the game successfully? We’re still working on it!
Believe me; this is challenging! I personally have gone from 6-7 buttons to over 14 so far, but I’m not giving up any time soon. Oh, and we also love the sibling mode when each player gets one side of the screen.
This might be our #1 favorite game right now because everybody, from my youngest to my husband, feels challenged and engaged. I took a moment to reflect just now and realized that we play a few rounds each day without fail – probably because we keep it on the kitchen table. “Can we play a round?” is part of our eating ritual just as much as dogs under the table waiting for something to “accidentally” fall on the floor. For some reason, we were astonished to find out that the paper-and-pen version of this game dates back a century!
One person, the code-maker, picks 4 pegs (there are 6 colors to choose from) and places them in the holes covered by the shield. Colors can be repeated. The second player, the code breaker, needs to guess the pattern: the right colors in the right places. After each guess, a code-maker provides feedback with colored pins. With 4 pegs and 6 colors, there are over one thousand possible patterns, so the game is always a challenge. This is a highly analytical code-breaking game, but the beauty of it is that anyone can play. My six-year-old loves it. It just takes her a little longer to break the code than her teenage brother or my husband.
You need logic to deduce what pegs the opponent has hidden, but you have the best chance of success by building upon previous guesses. Enter the power of …memory!
This is one game that comes on all our vacations. I consider it the equivalent of a quick hug. You know how some days it’s busy, busy, busy, and you just feel like you want to take a moment to tell your kids, I see you. I love you. You’re important to me. Well, this game serves the same purpose.
Three things have to be held in working memory in this game – shape, color, and count. The purpose of the game is to match those three characteristics as fast as possible to the two cards on display between the players.
There are no turns. Both players work at the same time and try to be the ones to get rid of all of the cards first. Time goes by really fast, and we always laugh a lot. Games are great for setting in motion positive interactions, lowering inhibitions, and forming connections. There’s a reason they’ve been played for millennia at social gatherings and why happy families tend to play a lot together.
This is the coolest memory game around if your kids are into animals. Guess in 10 is super fun, but it also builds your child’s thinking skills and focus, and it’s one of the few games on this list that trains long-term memory. Each animal card has a bunch of information: where the animal lives, what it eats, how many legs it has, whether it can be domesticated, whether it’s large or small, how fast it moves, etc.
The goal is to guess which animal your opponent has in 10 questions or less. The game teaches a truly prodigious amount of animal data, and I was so impressed by how quickly my kids memorized it. But don’t worry; the game remains fun even after your kids learn all the facts. Many animals share the same characteristics, so there is always an element of suspense and unpredictability. And we love using the clue cards for an extra bit of fun.
Memory Match Games
Memory games are such a classic and so much fun we often don’t realize that they are actually giving young brains a comprehensive workout.
The point of the game is to collect as many matching pairs as possible. All cards are spread face down, and the players take turns flipping two cards over. If the cards match, it’s a score. But chances are, especially at the beginning of the game, that the cards are not going to match. When the cards don’t match, they are flipped back over. The challenge is to remember what’s on the cards and where they are for future advantage. And as the game progresses, there are more and more cards to remember!
Memory-matching games build children’s thinking skills, help improve focus and concentration, and of course, train visual and working memories.
Our favorites are:
Dogs and puppies memory game (because I love dogs)
Memory matching game of famous paintings (because I grew up surrounded by gigantic art books, and they are all around me in my present home now)
Dinosaur memory game (because who doesn’t like dinosaurs?!)
And yes, I know it looks like it might work better for grown-ups, but it’s the same game. And why shouldn’t our kids be introduced to the greatest works of literature at a young and impressionable age? Enter Book Memory Game.
I also love the ones that are easy to take on the road trip. This one is especially good if your goal is to have your little kids playing independently in the back of the car while you’re driving. Travel memory game
I was planning to leave memory game suggestions at five, but I have one more that a friend of mine highly recommended. If you have kids who are really into trucks, like her kids, she swears your kids will love it. Each card is shaped like a truck! Developmental and Educational Trucks and Buses Memory Game
Memory chess is one of those games that makes you think, “why didn’t I think of this!!!” It’s like a traditional memory game, only instead of flat cards, you have twenty-four 3D wooden pegs shaped, sort of like chess pieces. The goal is to match the colors, which are on the base of each piece.
The pieces are inserted into the openings on the wooden board so that you can’t see the colors at the bottom. The challenge is to pay attention and remember what colors you (and your opponents) put back (when you don’t get a match) and where they are.
Like the traditional memory game, a player pulls out two pegs on each turn. If it is a match, it’s a score; if it’s not, you put it back. But it’s way harder to remember the location with a circular board! When you have rows of cards, you can think, “the first one in the second row,” but with a circle, the point of reference is always lost, and you really have to switch on your spatial awareness skills to do well.
Our favorite thing about Memory Chess?
There is more than one way to play Memory Chess because it comes with a color die. If you throw a die before you pull out the pegs, the objective of the game can be to collect:
- all of the pegs of the same color, or
- one peg of each color, or
- simply the most pairs.
Also, it’s a fantastic game for your child to play alone when you’re busy. It’s entertaining, but it also helps kids develop attention span, concentration, thinking skills, pattern memory (trying to put revealed colors into patterns to remember better), social skills (when playing together), spatial awareness, and of course, short-term memory.
In my family, we always have a large jigsaw puzzle going in the basement. It’s a fun family project and brain training at the same time.
While there are many advantages to doing jigsaw puzzles, the most notable is that they work both the left and right sides of the brain at the same time! This leads to an improved connection between the brain cells and, thus, a greater ability to learn, understand, and remember.
Have you heard the word “dissectologist“? If not, you are learning something new today. Dissectologists are jigsaw puzzle enthusiasts. It makes sense when you realize that the first jigsaw puzzles were called dissected maps.
Seasonal puzzles are a big hit in my home. It’s a great way to mark the start of each season and celebrate holidays. We have about 3-5 puzzles for each holiday of the year. It might take us anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to finish each puzzle, and then we break it and put it away till next year.
Cooking with cookbooks utilizes the part of your brain responsible for executive function. The executive function consists of mental skills like working memory, flexible thinking, and time management.
Let’s say, step #1 of your cake recipe says to beat 3 eggs with a cup of sugar. You have to walk to the fridge and locate the eggs, and then perhaps go to the pantry and find sugar, then come back, and still remember what you were supposed to do with those ingredients. Cooking really tests your ability to coordinate multiple tasks, as well as hold the next steps in working memory.
When scientists looked at how cooking improves cognition in a computer game that simulated it, there was a statistically significant improvement in memory function.
Are you ready to pop open a cookbook?
Here are some of our favorites:
The Cookbook for Kids (Williams Sonoma)
My Favorite Recipes by Annabel Carmel
The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs (America’s Test Kitchen)
Toddlers Cookbook (with healthy recipes!) by Heather Wish Staller
The Healthy Junior Chef (Williams Sonoma)
Which of these memory games caught your attention? Let me know in the comments below!