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5 Games to Keep Your Brain Sharp and Nimble

A woman and young boy working on a jigsaw puzzle.
LightField Studios/Shutterstock

If you’re looking for something fun to fill a few hours of your day, why not choose something that exercises your brain? Your muscles aren’t the only part of your body that benefits from a good flexing.

Some studies claim that solving puzzles—whether jigsaws or word searches—can improve your memory and, essentially, exercise your brain. Research on the matter isn’t conclusive, though. It would be premature to say that if you do sudoku every day for the rest of your life, you won’t suffer from dementia.

However, people who regularly do puzzles will likely tell you they find it relaxing, or that it makes their brain feel nimble.

Jigsaw Puzzles

When was the last time you put together a jigsaw puzzle? It’s more complicated than simply finding the right piece based on color. You also have to look at the shapes, and where they might fit into the big picture. It boosts your cognitive thinking.

Jigsaw puzzles are great for children and adults. You can buy one with a few large pieces or many small ones. There are even some multiple-size sets (usually called “family style”), so everyone can work together.

Crossword Puzzles

Crossword puzzles can be easy or challenging. The cool thing about them is you can get the general kind that cover all sorts of subjects. There are also some especially for kids, or some that cover specific subjects, like movies or TV shows.

In addition to making you think, crosswords can teach you new things (you learn as you fill in the spots you didn’t know the answers to at the start).

You can buy books filled with crossword puzzles or find some online.

Word Searches

Word searches are one of the easiest ways to help you improve your memory. Most of the time, a word search includes a list of words for you to find and circle. However, some don’t include a list, and others have crossword-style, fill-in-the-blanks with a mystery word you’re supposed to find.

Word searches might seem simple at first. However, once you find the easier words, the few stragglers among all those circles can be quite difficult to locate. Some word searches only include words across, down, or diagonally, but others include words spelled backward.


Sudoku is like a crossword puzzle with numbers. The game is in the form of a grid with a bunch of cells (81 of them), broken up into nine sections. Each section also has nine cells inside.

The idea is to put numbers one through nine in each section without repeating the same numbers in any row or column (and it’s not as easy as it sounds). You can buy Sudoku books or play online.

Memory Games

Remember the memory game from your childhood, where you flipped two cards, and if they didn’t match, you flipped them back over and tried again? Well, memory games aren’t just for kids, and they can, well, help you improve your memory.

Like most things these days, you’ll find memory-game apps on your phone. You can also purchase memory games for you and your kids.

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow is a professional writer with two decades of experience. She has written and edited for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and more. Yvonne is a published poet and short story writer, and she is a life coach. Read Full Bio »
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