children playing a board game
Outside the Classroom

Stimulating Learning during National Game and Puzzle Week

Some of my fondest childhood memories involve playing games at my grandparents’ house during Thanksgiving. They had a walk-in closet filled with hundreds of puzzles and board games stacked to the ceiling, just waiting for grandkids to bring them to life. Playing games like Scrabble® helped foster my love of words and inspired me to become a writer.

With National Game and Puzzle Week falling during the week of Thanksgiving, it’s a great time to discuss the role puzzles and games can play in learning. National Game and Puzzle Week was created to promote games that stimulate learning and positive social interaction. Some people may still think of games strictly as fun diversions with little learning value, but research has shown there are many benefits to playing socially stimulating board games and making puzzles of all types.

Benefits to Stimulating Learning During National Game and Puzzle Week

1. Foster Creative Thinking

Playing games and puzzles can strengthen connections in the brain, which can spark imagination, cultivate creativity, and enhance abstract thinking. Many games are ideal for developing verbal fluency, improving vocabulary, and sharpening reading and writing skills. They present stories and information in a new format, which helps strengthen our connections with others. Word puzzles are especially good for improving memory and increasing students’ ability to concentrate. Consider incorporating a game like Apples to Apples into an ELA class as a fun way of learning the different parts of speech.

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2. Strengthen Family Bonds with Quality Time

In the era of smartphones and social media, quality family time is more important than ever. Playing games and doing puzzles together is a good way to strengthen family bonds, and participating in mentally stimulating games can improve interpersonal relationships. Playing board games can teach crucial social skills such as effective communication, sharing, taking turns, and enjoying the company of others. Unlike other activities, such as watching a movie, playing games as a family provides invaluable face-to-face interaction that’s fun for everyone. These positive experiences draw families closer together and provide cherished memories (like Grandma’s game closet) that last a lifetime.

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3. Improve Analytical Thinking and Math Skills

Playing games and doing puzzles help people develop important cognitive skills. You can improve your memory with a matching game, strengthen problem-solving abilities by playing a strategy game, and promote critical thinking with a mystery game. Puzzles and games are also great tools for detecting patterns and spatial relationships. Remember the joy of discovering Tetris® for the first time? Stimulating learning during National Game and Puzzle Week helps students retain the math skills they’ve learned thus far in the school year.

Number-based games can help students improve analytical thinking and problem-solving skills that can translate to the classroom. It’s important to help children realize that intelligence is malleable, and they can improve their performance with practice. This helps promote a love of learning and may even lead to them enjoying homework. Okay, maybe that’s a stretch, but it certainly can’t hurt.

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4. Promote Social and Emotional Learning

Over the past decade, social and emotional learning has become an important part of education, and games and puzzles can play a significant role in social and emotional learning. Doing puzzles can improve emotional skills by teaching patience, goal-setting, and a sense of accomplishment. And the shared experience of playing games helps forge identity and enable healthy adolescent maturation.

Games and puzzles can teach kids the value of teamwork, foster a sense of sportsmanship, and raise self-esteem. Try adding some board game play into your classroom to encourage cooperative learning. Games and puzzles also teach kids the value of making a plan, setting goals, and following rules, all of which are important components of success both in childhood and adulthood. Breaking kids into groups to play a game like Clue® is an excellent way to teach students how to work together and value the opinions of others.


Thanks to National Game and Puzzle Week, Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be a time of overeating, inactivity, and understimulation. As long as you have the right “game plan,” stimulating learning during National Game and Puzzle Week can be both fun and educational for students. If you’re looking for some gaming inspiration, check our lists below for ideas.

Scrabble pieces spelling out "WLC"

Best of Board Games

  • Monopoly®
  • Scrabble®
  • Life®
  • Scattergories®
  • Trivial Pursuit®
  • Battleship®
  • Operation®
  • Cranium®
  • Candy Land®
  • Pictionary®

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Classic Favorites

  • Jigsaw puzzles
  • Crossword puzzles
  • Chess
  • Checkers
  • Card games
  • Charades
  • Dominoes
  • Mad Libs®

Sources

Cole, L. (2019, March 13). What is analytical thinking ability and how to develop? Mental Up. Retrieved from https://www.mentalup.co/blog/what-is-analytical-thinking-ability-and-how-to-develop

Dent, D. (2018, January 25). Engage your brain on National Puzzle Day. Arizona State University Department of Psychology. Retrieved from https://psychology.asu.edu/content/engage-your-brain-national-puzzle-day

Dewar, G. (n.d.). Growth mindset: Can a theory of intelligence change the way you learn? Parenting Science. Retrieved from https://www.parentingscience.com/theory-of-intelligence.html

Rodriguez, J. (2017, July 27). 7 best literacy-boosting board games. Scholastic Parents. Retrieved from https://www.scholastic.com/parents/books-and-reading/raise-a-reader-blog/7-best-literacy-boosting-board-games.html

Van Klaveren, C. (2019, October 7). The value of storytelling in the classroom. Where Learning Clicks. Retrieved from https://blog.edgenuity.com/value-of-storytelling-in-the-classroom/

About the Author

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Ryan Zaharako

Ryan is a former Marine who graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a B.S. in Radio/TV/Film with a focus on writing. In 2005, he became a copywriter in entertainment advertising in Hollywood, California before recently joining the marketing team at Edgenuity. Ryan is excited to be working in the rewarding world of education technology.