Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self. Cyril Connolly (1903 - 1974)


Make Your Kids Smarter This Holiday Season

I love the idea of purchasing toys that are for the long term and that is also education and beneficial for the child. I guess with my budget, I better make it count, so here is a great article to help with your shopping this season!

The Smart Mom’s Toy Box  
15 Brain-Building Toys Under $15
By Dr. Ken Gibson

Parenting is all about compromises. Your daughter wants candy for breakfast, so you settle on toaster waffles with only one layer of blue frosting. Your son doesn’t want to clean his room, so you agree to a viable path to the hamper if you promise not to look under his bed.

            Christmas is no exception to the rule of compromise. Your kids want fun toys, but you don’t want to blow your entire budget on junk that’ll either rot their brains or fall apart before the wrapping paper is taking over your living room floor.

            Luckily, there are plenty of great toys for little ones that help develop complex learning skills, like memory, logic & reasoning, processing speed, attention, and auditory and visual processing. Best of all, these brain training games can help strengthen the cognitive skills needed to make learning easier – and they’re all under $15!

            Just skim through the list and look for skill sets based on your child’s age and abilities. Do you have a seven-year-old with ADHD? Look for toys that strengthen selective, divided and sustained attention. Teaching your kindergartner to read? Select toys that strengthen phonemic awareness (letter sounds) through rhyming, segmenting and sound blending.

            We now know that the brain is plastic, and since IQ is simply a measurement of cognitive skills, we can raise IQ by strengthening cognitive skills at ANY age. Toys that build and strengthen learning skills are like home exercises for your child’s brain.

            Here are some of the best brain-building games under $15:
1.      Rhyming Words Dominoes Challenge Cards ($2.99 on
Teach rhyming words with these domino-like cards. Includes 56 double-sided cards with words and pictures.
            Ages: 4+
Cognitive skills: sound segmenting, rhyming, auditory processing
Rhyming Words Dominoes Challenge Cards®
2.      Trademark Global 22 pieces Colorful Geometric Shaped Magnet Set with Board by Trademark Global ($5 on
Create a simple design then have your child replicate it. The magnet board is great for car trips.
Ages: 3+
Cognitive skills: logic & reasoning, visual processing, attention

3.      Simon Electronic Carabiner by Basic Fun ($10.24 on
This small, portable version of the original classic includes a carabiner clip to attach to a belt loop or purse.
Ages: 7+
Cognitive skills: auditory processing, visual processing, attention, memory, processing speed
Simon Electronic Carabiner
4.      Lauri Toys Shape and Color Sorter by Patch Products ($10.99 in Walmart stores)
Includes a sorting pegboard, five wooden pegs and 25 shapes in various colors.
Ages: 2+
Cognitive skills: visual processing, logic & reasoning, attention

5.      60-Second Jumbo Timer by Learning Resources ($12.40 in Walmart stores)
Use this colorful timer with any activity or game to add the element of speed to any game – even solitaire and simple memory games played alone.
Ages: 2+
Cognitive skills: processing speed

6.      Minute Math Electronic Flash Card by Learning Resources ($13.16 on
This handheld gadget builds number fact fluency in timed and untimed modes with three levels of difficulty. Gives positive, corrective feedback (both visual and auditory).
Ages: 6+
Cognitive skills: visual processing, auditory processing, math computations, processing speed

7.      Rattled by Educational Insights ($8.49 on
Just shake and then use the letters that appear to create words. Use individually or with teams.
Ages: 8+
Cognitive skills: sound blending, sound segmenting, attention, processing speed

8.      Spot it! By Blue Orange ($11.98 on
Find the symbol that each of two cards has in common. A fun, fast game for the entire family.
Ages: 7+
Cognitive skills: attention, processing speed, visual processing

9.      Sport Stacking Game – Stacks Cups by Flying Cup ($12.50 on
Stack in sequences as fast as you can. Compete against your own time or against friends.
Ages: 8+
Cognitive skills: planning, processing speed, visual processing

10.  Travel Battleship Fun on the Run by Hasbro ($8.49 on
This classic tactical combat game is now perfect for car trips!
Ages: 7+
Cognitive skills: logic & reasoning, planning, problem solving

11.  LED Light Rubik’s Cube by OEM ($12 on
The classic ‘80s brain twister now comes in a light-up version.
Ages: 3+
Cognitive skills: planning, visual processing, problem solving, working memory

12.  Sequence for Kids by Jax Ltd. ($11.99 on
Play a card from your hand, place a chip on a character and aim for four in a row!
Ages: 4+
Cognitive skills: logic & reasoning, planning, problem solving, sequential processing, visual processing, working memory

13.  4 In a Row by Pressman Toy ($10.07 on
Be the first player to get four color disks in a row and you win!
Ages: 6+
Cognitive skills: attention, logic & reasoning, executive processing, planning, sequential processing, problem solving

14.  Bop-It Bounce by Hasbro ($9.73 on
Follow the electronic commands to bounce at different skill levels – alone or against friends.
Ages: 8+
Cognitive skills: auditory processing, planning, processing speed, attention

15.  Mancala For Kids by Pressman Toy ($9.49 on
With animal shapes instead of stones, this version of the centuries-old classic is still a gem.
Ages: 6+
Cognitive skills: logic & reasoning, numerical concept, numerical fluency, planning, problem solving

Cognitive skills are the learning skills used to attend to and retain information, to process, analyze and store facts and feelings, and to create mental pictures, read words and understand concepts. When cognitive skills are strong, academic learning is fast, easy, efficient and even fun. Toys that work these skills are a step in the right direction to create strong learners.

Take this list with you when you head to the store (or online!) to do your holiday shopping. And who knows? If strengthening cognitive skills is this fun, maybe you can convince your kids that picking up wrapping paper is a game. Or maybe not.

Dr. Ken Gibson, is the co-author of Unlock the Einstein Inside: Applying New Brain Science to Wake Up the Smart in Your Child and founder of LearningRx, a national brain training franchise with 83 centers across the nation.

Colette is a busy mom of 2 kids focusing solely on being a mom. She hails from the Caribbean and now balance the full life of being a SAHM and dabbling in odd jobs to help around the home. She enjoys sharing her memories, hopes, food, travel, entertainment, and product experiences on her blog. Please read my disclosure 
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  1. I have a couple of little ones to buy for and have yet to grab them anything, this list was very helpful :)

  2. I love these toys. Thank you for the post.

  3. Simon! I loved Simon as a kid! How fun! :)

  4. Great list of toys. I think learning while playing is the best way for kids to learn, especially toys that truly do hide the learning part. :)

  5. Wow! These are some really great games! Not only would they make your child smarter but they're tons of fun to play too!

  6. Great post! I love Simon! I think it is so important to get fun toys but also something your child can really benefit from.

  7. Great list! Bop It and Simon are two of our favorites. I'm a big fan of educational toys for my brood!

  8. What a fun and great list of toys!! Kids learn the best by learning and playing:)

  9. Simon was my favorite game to play as a kid!!!! Love this post!

  10. looks like an awesome list of gifts to give I agree many of these do help promote education

  11. great gift ideas! thanks :-)

  12. what wonderful gift ideas

  13. Awesome; we are always looking for ways to entertain and challenge our children's minds.


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