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For Kids, Games Can Build Strong Minds

Here's a new reason to zap video games: Those electronic playthings keep kids from games that stimulate their minds in important ways.

Citing the latest research on the brain, experts say chess, Scrabble®, Monopoly®—even jigsaw puzzles or tic-tac-toe—do more to help children build analytical, organizational, and creative skills. As adults, your kids will need those abilities, which may keep their minds sharp as they reach old age.

Start early

Play time is essential for healthy brain development. This is how children develop imagination, and build cognitive, physical and emotional maturity, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Play time is also essential for physical development. Unstructured play is one way to encourage children to be more physically active. Physical activity helps your child develop dexterity, balance, and agility.

Learning benefits

These mental game-playing "workouts" serve as warm-ups for more serious learning. Children learn how to pay attention to adults and feel comfortable with other children. Time spent pretending to be an adult can help a child develop problem-solving skills and socially acceptable behaviors. The AAP encourages parents to limit video and television viewing by school-age children to an hour or two a day. For infants and toddlers, parents should turn off the TV.

Provide stimulation

Create a safe place in your home that will stimulate your child's sense of play. Gather age-appropriate items together that promote play. Here are some ideas:

  • For little ones, provide containers to dump and fill, or blocks to handle and stack, and toys that make noise, like pots and pans or large plastic spoons

  • Give toddlers trucks and plastic animals, or walker wagons and pull toys for when they start moving around

  • Older kids will probably enjoy playing "dress up" in your old clothes, drawing pictures, and having pretend conversations on your old cell phone