The 2015 Smart Moms Toy Box
20 Award-Winning, Brain-Boosting Toys Under $25
Buying toys for Christmas doesn’t need to break your bank OR make you feel guilty. We’ve put together a list of award-winning toys that can help build your child’s cognitive skills—like memory, auditory and visual processing, attention, logic & reasoning, and processing speed—for less than $25*! Best of all, your kids will have fun without even knowing they’re learning!
1. Compose Yourself by Think Fun ($14.99)
Create a world-class composition in minutes. No musical experience required!
Cognitive skills: Visual and auditory processing
Awards: 2015 Major Fun Award, 2015 Play Advances Language Award, 2105 FamilyFun Magazine Toy Fair Favorites, 2015 BSCKids Bestie Award
2. Clumsy Thief by Melon Rind ($14.99)
A fast-paced card game requiring a mix of strategy, addition skills, and luck!
Cognitive skills: Strategy, planning, math computations, attention
Awards: Tillywig Toy Awards Best Family Fun, 2013 Dr. Toy’s Best Picks, Academics Choice Brain Toy Award Winner, Major Fun Award
3. Distraction by ThinkFun ($9.99)
Memorize the numbers on the cards as the sequence of digits continues to grow. Draw and answer a Distraction card before reciting the cards’ numbers in order. The player who gets rid of their cards first wins.
Cognitive skills: memory, attention,
Awards: 2012 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio, 2012 Parents’ Choice Recommended Game, 2012 Dr. Toy’s 10 Best Games, 2012 Dr. Toy’s 100 Best Children’s Products, 2012 Creative Child Preferred Choice Award, 2012 Major Fun Award
4. STARE! Junior Game by Game Development Group ($21.99)
Take turns staring at fun images on the cards until the timer runs out. Then answer questions about what you remember!
Cognitive skills: Memory, attention, visual perception
Awards: Teachers’ Choice Award, National Parenting Publications Awards Nappa Honors, The National Parenting Center seal of approval
5. Quiddler by SET Enterprises Inc. ($4.99)
Combine your hand into one or more words trying to use the highest point value letters.
Cognitive skills: Sound blending, visual processing, attention, segmenting
Awards: Parents’ Council Award, Educational Clearinghouse A+ Award, MENSA Select Award, Dr. Toy’s Best Vacation Winner, Creative Child’s Preferred Choice Award, and more
6. Five Crowns Junior by SET Enterprises Inc. ($10.43)
Match all five cards in your hand by either number or color to win a treasure chip. Avoid earning Robby chips or you could lose your treasure!
Cognitive skills: Visual processing, attention
Awards: Family Choice Award, Creative Child’s Travel Fun of the Year Award
7. Blokus by Mattel ($16.74)
Place your pieces on the board so that they touch another piece of the same color, but only at the corners.
Cognitive skills: Strategy, logic & reasoning, visual processing, processing speed, planning
Awards: Mensa Select Award, Teacher’s Choice Award
8. SET by SET Enterprises Inc. ($10.97)
Be the first to call out a set of three from the cards dealt. The one with the most sets when the cards are done wins.
Cognitive skills: Visual processing, processing speed, attention, spatial reasoning skills
Awards: Winner of over 35 Best Game Awards
9. Back 2 Back by SmartGames ($10.75)
A challenging grid-based puzzle game that’s played on both sides.
Cognitive skills: Planning, visual processing, attention
Awards: Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award
10. Wordplay for Kids by Game Development Group ($17.45)
Build words that fit the category and include the letters required as you race to the finish.
Cognitive skills: Phonemic awareness, sound blending, visual processing, processing speed, attention
Awards: Teacher’s Choice Award
11. Telepathy Jr. by LMD ($23.99)
Through the process of elimination, guess your opponent’s secret square.
Cognitive skills: Deductive reasoning, logic, problem solving, memory, visual processing
Awards: National Parenting Center Award
12. CUBU by Funnybone Toys ($9.78)
Try to follow color numbers and color sequences to get to 100 points first.
Cognitive skills: Visual processing, processing speed, attention
Awards: Creative Child Magazine 2012 Preferred Choice, Family Review Center Best of 2012
13. Arrazzles by Funnybone Toys ($17.49)
Imagine, build, connect, and play with these metallic color cards.
Cognitive skills: Planning, visual processing
Awards: Creative Child Magazine 2013 Top Toy of the Year Award, Academics’ Choice Brain Toy Gold Award
14. Stomple by Spin Master Games ($15.95)
Use strategy to stomp your opponent’s marbles before they stomp yours.
Cognitive skills: Planning, strategy, visual processing
Awards: Mensa Select National Competition Winner, More Fun Award
15. Tapple by USAopoly ($13.00)
Choose a category card and name a word matching the category within 10 seconds, then press the first letter of the word on the wheel. Can’t think of a word in time? You’re out! The player that collects the most cards wins!
Cognitive skills: Processing speed, memory, attention
Awards: National Association for Gifted Children 2013 Toy List, Mom’s Choice Gold Award, Major Fun Award, Tillywig Toy & Media Awards’ Top Fun Award, and more
16. IQ Twist by SmartGames ($9.99)
Try to fit all the twisted playing pieces on the game board for any of 100 challenges.
Cognitive skills: Logic, planning, strategy, visual processing
Awards: Best New Puzzle – Games magazine
17. Apples to Apples Junior by Mattel ($17.07)
Try to convince the judge that the word you’ve chosen from your hand best matches the judge’s card.
Cognitive skills: Logic & reasoning, attention, critical thinking skills
Awards: Mensa Select prizewinner, Party Game of the Year by Games magazine, National Parenting Center’s seal of approval
18. Balance Benders by Critical Thinking Press ($14.98)
Solve these quick, fun logic problems that develop deductive thinking and pre-algebra skills.
Cognitive skills: Logic & reasoning, math skills, attention
Awards: Smart Toy Product, Dr. Toy Best Smart Play, iParenting Media Award, The National Parenting Center seal of approval, Association of Educational Publishers Distinguished Achievement Finalist Award, and more
19. Match It! Spelling Memory by The Learning Journey International ($10.28)
Find matching pairs that teach short spelling words, like “cat” and “frog.”
Cognitive skills: Memory, problem solving, sound blending, auditory processing, phonemic awareness
Awards: Creative Child Magazine seal of excellence
20. Spot It! by Blue Orange ($9.97)
Find the symbol that each of two cards has in common. A fun, fast game for the entire family.
Ages: 3 – 12 years
Cognitive Skills: Attention, processing speed, visual perception
Awards: Winner of 15 awards
“We now know that, thanks to neuroplasticity, our brains can change, adapt, and grow at any age,” explains Tanya Mitchell, co-author of “Unlock the Einstein Inside: Applying New Brain Science to Wake Up the Smart in Your Child” (www.unlocktheeinsteininside.com). “The fastest and most effective way to strengthen your cognitive skills is through personal brain training, which produces measurable and lasting results. But on a smaller scale, parents can help strengthen their children’s brain skills by choosing games and activities that use these essential skills.”
Ready to head to the store (or online!) to do your holiday shopping? Take this list, or download a free Games for Skills Chart here.
*Prices based on Amazon.com at the time of compilation.