You’ve heard the reports—executive function is key to “successful learning,” says The Atlantic, citing these skills as “more important to learning and educational success than IQ or inherent academic talent.” And one of the best ways to help your kids hone their cognition, executive function and, even, boost attention spans is with structured games.

In other words, bring back family game night! We’re overwhelmingly committed to bringing back game night.

That means ditching the smart phones, the tablets, the video games and, of course, shutting off the TV. It means gathering the gang around the table for some fun family competition that comes with plenty of perks besides just the brain boosts. And it means committing to game night week after week, even when you’re time crunched—it’s those weeks you actually need it most.

So what games accomplish both goals—build cognition and function while, at the same time, being fun for everyone? Wooden puzzle-based games, for starters, plus any games that involve core skills: counting, matching, guessing or spelling, for example.

This classic game is easy to set up and even easier to play—but, at the same time, forces kids to think about cause/effect and the immediate consequences of their actions while helping with motor skills. If they pull this piece, what will happen? What about this one? All of this followed by careful pushing, pulling and resetting—and, of course, a resounding “awwwww!” when someone inevitably knocks down the tower. Jenga!

This one’s a classic for a reason. Is there a better game for developing strategic thinking skills, impulse control and planning/prioritizing than chess? “No Stress” versions are even available for younger players, which use card draws to initiate moves—and, after a few wins, your kids will no doubt be ready to move from novice to mini pros. No matter which version you choose, chess is the ultimate logic builder—some experts even believe consistent play can increase IQs, prevent Alzheimer's and drive creativity.

Cribbage Board

Perfect for older kids and families, classic wooden cribbage boards are timeless and, more importantly, easy to set up. If yours is a mixed age group, consider creating teams—two, three or four solo players or teams is perfect for a quick game! Because this game involves strategy and basic math, there’s plenty to be gained (and it’s a lot of fun!). It’s also easy to pack up and bring to Grandma’s house for the weekend (think wooden travel cribbage!).

Travel Games
Hitting the road? Consider the travel versions of these go-to games. Not only game you keep family game night going, but you’ll have something to keep the gang occupied on rainy days or long stretches in the car. With its portable size and easy all-in-one storage, Heartwood’s Tic-Tac-Toe Marble Game is ideal for road tripping. Everything goes back into the game’s handmade wooden box when your kids are done -- and that means you won’t spend hours searching for rogue marbles between rest stops. And because this one taps into strategic thinking and planning, it’s a major brain boost for kids of all ages.


Tic Tac Toe Travel Game

Ready to kick off family night? Check out Heartwood’s collection of wooden cribbage boards and handcrafted puzzle boxes now!