Toys & Tech

Games to get brains back in training


So the new school year has begun and with it the usual wave of resolutions and dreaded requests for help with homework. The shoes are still shiny (well, for the first couple of days), the shirts are still white (likewise), and enthusiasm and motivation levels are probably at the highest peaks they’re likely to reach. Make the most of it, earn yourself some smug-parent brownie points and try to subtly cram some of the rules you’ve forgotten before you’re found out! Sharpening minds – young and old – doesn’t have to be met with moans and groans. Here’s a collection of kit we think sits in the ‘edutainment’ category almost perfectly, stealth learning as we also like to call it, or Ninja knowhow… did we go too far?

£7.99 at Fletter

This rather good shouty-out word game is compact enough to take anywhere. There’s 33 vowel cards, 66 consonant cards, ten Fletter cards to dish out as punishment for wrong-doings and four blank ones to be used as any letter you choose. Take cards, one at a time, from the shuffled pack and place in the play area. Round one is the first player to be able to form a three letter word from the cards in play, first to shout out gets the cards to add scores later, then it is onto four, five and six letter words. Fast, infuriating and great fun.

£22.99 from John Lewis

Based on the table of doom, well that’s what we used to call it in Chemistry lessons, FReNeTiC is a word creating game using the element tiles. There are over 10,000 words which can be created and scores are given according to the points on each tile. You’re up against the clock in each round and, the first player to score 1,000 wins. Atomic numbers have never looked so appealing.

Rory’s Story Cubes
£9.99 at John Lewis

Here is your very own portable story generation machine, fun played solo or as a group, friends, family, everyone in your street. Each die in the set of nine contain a plethora of images and, when the set is rolled, it is up to you to tell a story using the pictures presented. Superb for social confidence, these cubes enhance language skills and create unique (and comical) moments between players and show a creative side you perhaps didn’t know existed.

4 in 1 Brainbox learning game
£10 from Amazon

Aimed at pre-schoolers this game from BrainBox is lots of fun. The double-sided cards are sturdy and so perfect for little hands. With the animal cards, there are three animals on one side and a part of one of them on the other. After you’ve talked about the animals, guess which animal’s body parts are on the second side. If you’re right, you keep the card. Other sets work similarly; name the colours from the outlines, or remember the numbers. On letter cards you name the letter from the images on the first side. Super simple, a grey matter gro-bag of a game for those three and over.

Who knows where?
£29.99 from Amazon

Another classroom nemesis for some can be those geography lessons; truth is, being knowledgeable about people and places on this planet could win you big on a game show one day. Race around the globe locating famous places and answer questions across five categories. With easy and hard question cards you can adjust the levels of accuracy for beginners and experts, the double-sided board allowing play on an easier country map with borders and named countries or, the more challenging satellite. Get to one of the ‘four corners’ for a power play, steal an opponent’s answer, gain global knowledge.

Colour Brain
£22.99 from John Lewis

This game offers all the answers before you play so it’s ideal for those without a general knowledge gene. You’ll not garner too much information that’ll be school useful but it will get those hippocampus areas into action. Just work out which of the 11 colour cards in your hand correctly answers the Colourbrain’s question. Get it right, then just hope the other teams stumble with their colours. A very decent hue-based game.

The Mind
£12.21 from Zatu Games

Superbly simple and fantastically fiendish the aim of the game is to lay down the cards, numbered from 1-100 down in sequential order before progressing to the next level. No communication is allowed between players so its all about sussing out what others might be holding onto, and to get a real handle on gameplay it’ll take a few rounds. Each round players are delivered one more card into their hand. Reach level 10 and, well congratulations, you’ve discovered how very un-put-down-able this pack of cards can be.

Mrs Wordsmith
£125 (available as monthly subscription) at

Take your kids on an incredible narrative journey with this wonderbox of vocabulary. Packed with words that are brought to life by award-winning artists, it  will teach them how to build amazing building blocks for storytelling, improve their reading skills and, dare I say it, boost their writing ages. Its all about learning words in their correct context with lots of laugh-out-loud moments inside too. Adults beware, you’ll also enjoy this journey!

Peter Jenkinson
I’ve an unmatched passion and dedication for trying, testing and talking about the latest and most interesting offerings from the toy market. From stepping in to host a shopping channel sales slot where the rotors on my RC chopper fell off to talking at length about a lightsaber on CNN’s flagship news show – I’ve tried plenty, and always get invited back. It is a cliché to say I’ve a face for radio but it certainly has its benefits so I’m approached plenty to wax about anything related to the toy market. Action Man from the Batteries not included market. You can find me over at

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