Brain training is not something often discussed in educational circles. Although ten-minute tests and other short tests are well used within exam preparation. However, the benefits of brain training or cognitive training is as important as getting physical exercise. You go to the gym or put your running shoes on to build muscle or train for a sporting event. What do you do to train your brain?
The science behind brain training
As with anything these days, the concept of brain training has its sceptics. Nevertheless, the science is clear. Everything you do changes your brain. Different neurons fire and different neural paths are developed because of our activity. This process is called neuroplasticity.
Our brains are networks of neurons and to keep those neurons firing, we have to use them regularly. When certain neural paths are not used often they will stop firing. Something well researched from an Alzheimer’s perspective.
Many people trying to facilitate change whether within their lives or work environments, will be familiar with this. We strengthen neural pathways through repetition. Through ‘practising’ the new behaviour or outcome. The same principle applies to learning and other cognitive functions.
How do you train your brain?
Taking control of this process of neuroplasticity is where the key lies. To target activities on certain skills, you want to get better at.
Brain training or cognitive games have become a big industry. Not only for children learning and creating new neural pathways but also for the older generation living in fear of losing once strong pathways.
This is not a new concept either. The term brain training has been used for many years. Some companies have of course also tried to cash in on this concept.
Stress and anxiety prevent you from performing at your best. Why not see how stressed your child might be with our quick quiz: How stressed is your child.
Therefore when actions become like second nature, the stress and anxiety are taken out of the equation.
For example, if your child is preparing for the 11 Plus and the have to do a Non-verbal reasoning test but have never done these questions, it might be a bit overwhelming. However, when they have played games involving these skills (like IQ Puzzler), the questions will be familiar and there will be no interference from stress hormones. They can, therefore, use all the necessary energy in coming up with an answer for the relevant question.
There are many games out there that are great for building these different neural pathways. Some of the cognitive functions these look at are.
- visual search
- logical thinking
- abstract-logical thinking
- focused attention
- switching attention/task switching
- processing speed
What are the top brain training games
There are so many games and techniques available. From board games to card games to puzzle games to computer games and even Alexa games.
Many schools in the state sector also use a platform called Active Learn, where children are assigned various games set to reinforce concepts learnt at school.
There are also various cognitive training programmes making use of movement, for example, Brain Gym
I will mention a few other games that might be helpful below:
For physical games, why not try:
- Dobble, a card game for adults and children and trains you in visual perception
- IQ Puzzler for non-verbal reasoning skills
- Rubik’s cube for developing your problem-solving skills
- Chess is also great for planning and strategic thinking skills
There are so many apps or computer games out there. To mention only a few of my favourite free options:
- Lumosity – probably one of the most used brain training apps with a free or paid option
- Wikium – brain training games very similar in format to Lumosity
- Fire boy and water girl – two-player game great for problem-solving
- Elevate – with over 40 games ranging from maths puzzles to listening and reading exercises
Another great option is our own ten-minute tests. With these, your child can get their daily practice for 11 Plus exam preparation.