I am a married Mom of 3: Boy (4 yo), Boy (2 yo) and Girl (11 mo old). I founded MomsOutLoud.com in 2008, which is now DFWMama.com. (Basically, I decided I liked Rachael and her team so well I wanted to join it!) Now I'm here, writing about what I know and love - raising kids in North Texas.

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Smart Moms’ Toy Box: Give Your Kids a Running Start This School Year

Boy Leaning

Your kids are heading back to school—or may have already started—and need all the brain power they can get to make this year a success. The following five games are aimed at improving underlying cognitive function and the skills your child needs to read, solve math problems, write essays, and function well in school and in life. These games are fun, challenging, and can be played by the whole family. Enjoy!

Nationally renowned brain-training experts Ken Gibson and Tanya Mitchell have created a free list to help parents shop for toys to help improve their children’s learning skills. “Our hope is that parents will shop wisely for toys this year, purchasing toys that can help develop the cognitive skills that make learning possible—like auditory and visual processing, memory, logic and reasoning, processing speed, and attention,” says Gibson. “Research now shows that learning skills can be taught—and therefore improved. Brain skills training does for the mind what physical exercise does for the body.”

“A parent whose child has Attention Deficit Disorder, for example, would want to shop for toys that improve attention,” explains Mitchell. “Likewise, a child who struggles with reading would benefit from games that practice sound blending and segmenting.”

Gibson is the founder of national brain training franchise LearningRx, and the co-author of Unlock the Einstein Inside: Applying New Brain Science to Wake Up the Smart in Your Child with Mitchell.

Things to Keep in Mind

  • A smart toy box will focus on all major learning skills
  • Parents can help their kids get smarter at any age
  • Brain research shows the brain continues to grow throughout life
  • Parents should help prepare a good learner for school by developing learning skills
  • Parents should take 30 minutes, 3 times a week to work on developing these skills
  • The best way to strengthen learning skills is to use fun, game-like activities
  • Studies show that reading problems can be prevented.

    Smart Moms Toy Box_LEGOS

    There are so many LEGOS to choose from and the price varies quite a bit. We found them for $16.00 for a LEGO City Camper set and up to $88.99 for LEGO Star Wars. So, you’re on your own on this one. There are just too many to recommend! You can probably find used LEGOS on Ebay or just shop at your neighborhood garage sales. Have fun hunting!

    Deductive reasoning: inference in which the conclusion about particulars follows necessarily from general or universal premises.
    Executive processing: several complex, interrelated mental operations or constructs, including the allocation of attentional resources, working memory, planning, problem solving, response inhibition, self-monitoring and regulation, and the maintenance of mental sets.
    Planning: to prioritize information and organize processes into a logical, sequential order.
    Problem solving: to organize information, define the goal of inquiry, plan a series of sequential steps and apply the steps accurately to satisfy the goal of inquiry.

    Sequential processing:
    to process chunks of information that are received one after another.


    Smart Moms Toy Box_Mancala$8.79 for folding Mancala here from Amazon.com
    $12.99 for regular Mancala
    here from Target.com



    Logic and reasoning: to reason, plan, and think
    Numerical concept: to understand the meaning of numbers and their relationship with other numbers and quantities.

    Numerical fluency:
    to quickly, efficiently, and accurately apply relationships between number concepts.
    Problem solving 

    Sequence (ages 5 and up)

    Smart Moms Toy Box_SequenceSmart Moms Toy Box_Sequence States and Capitals$15.99 for the original Sequence here at Target.com

    $16.99 for the States and Capitals Sequence Game. Improve your child’s geography knowledge at the same time! Go here for the game at Target.com.


    Logic and reasoning
    Problem solving
    Sequential processing
    Visual processing:
    to process and make use of visual images. Helps one create mental pictures faster and more vividly; helps one understand and “see” word math problems and read maps; improves reading comprehension skills.

    Working memory:
    to retain information while processing or using it.


    Smart Moms Toy Box_Sudoku Easy to Hard BookSmart Moms Toy Box_Sudoku Puzzle Addict PC GameSudoku Puzzle Addict (PC game) for $4.99 here from Target.com

    Sudoku Easy to Hard Book (3rd edition) here for $7.95 from Amazon.com 

    FREE Sudoku Online games here 

    FREE Sudoku games to print here    

    Deductive reasoning
    Inductive reasoning:
    to make generalized conclusions from particular instances.
    Logic and reasoning
    Numerical concept
    Numerical fluency
    Problem solving
    Sequential processing

    Short-term memory: the ability to apprehend and hold information in immediate awareness and use it within a few seconds.
    Working memory


    Smart Moms Toy Box_Tetris Evolution for XBox 360$19.49 for Tetris Evolution (Xbox 360) here from Amazon.com (or used for $11.95 here from Amazon.com)

    FREE Online Tetris here



    Logic and reasoning
    Long-term memory:
    to store information and fluently retrieve it later in the process of thinking.
    Numerical concept
    Numerical fluency
    Processing speed:
    the speed at which the brain processes information. Makes reading faster and less tiring; makes one more aware of his or her surrounding environment; helps with sports such as basketball, football, and soccer and activities such as driving.
    Problem solving
    Selective attention
    Sequential processing
    Short-term memory
    Simultaneous processing
    Sustained attention
    Visual processing


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