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Thinking skills

Games & Puzzles of Interest for Use with Gifted & Talented Children


Dixit is a splendidly illustrated game of creative guesswork, where your imagination unlocks the tale. Every turn, the storyteller will call out a short phrase or word to match the image on his card. Then each player will choose the card that most closely matches that phrase, and then everyone must guess which card the storyteller saw when he invented his brief tale. Correctly guess the storyteller’s card, and you’ll move ahead. Convince everyone else that your card is best, and you’ll do even better. 3-6 players. Age 8 - Adult.

"...where most board games test your logic, wit, or even dexterity, Dixit tests your ability to toy with the imagination of your friends."
"...it can’t be overstated that Dixit is not as simple as its rules. There are all kinds of sinister moments when you’ll be looking at a row of pictures and you’ll realise that of course Millicent would choose a card with a cat on to reference happiness!"
                                              from review at 'Shut up & sit down'

River Crossing

Help the magnetic hiker cross the river by moving planks to link from tree-stump to stump.
40 graded cards ranging from easy to very hard; suitable for age 7+.

Play an online version of River Crossing - Plank Puzzles here



The rules take minutes to learn, while the play variety is endless. Games average 10-20 minutes, 2-4 players and the wooden board and playing pieces are nicely constructed. Players create a maze to impede but not trap their opponent. A good game is a series of strategically crucial moves, often leading to an exciting race to the finish. Quoridor was named "Games Magazine's Game of the Year" for 1998.
Seems to bear a striking resemblance to 'Cul-de-sac' from about 25 years ago. Cost around £25.
Very easy to learn, with interesting strategies developing as the maze builds up during the game. Age 6+.
Quoridor Kid is a simplified version for age 5+ available here

Camelot Junior

Camelot Junior

Use the wooden pieces to build a path for the knight to reach the princess stranded at the top of a tower. 48 graded challenges.

Beautifully designed puzzle for ages 4-12.


A card game invented by Robert Abbott that has appeared in many versions. It's appeal for use with able children is that it is one of the few games to involve using inductive logic i.e. trying to come up with a theory that fits the observed facts. It can be played with ordinary packs of cards or this site has a downloadable set of simplified cards. One version of the rules can be found here (half way down page) - but you can easily simplify them so that the game can be played with quite young children (7+). or try Eleusis Express.
As with Dixit (see above), players are rewarded for setting a task that is neither too easy or too hard. In this case, where some players (but not all) find the logic of the pattern within a reasonable time. 


Tip the crates over in the correct order, so that your man can reach the red crate. 40 increasingly difficult levels to solve. Age 7+.

Play an online version here.

Also available in a Spiderman version here

Make 'n' Break

Make 'N' Break

Build the structures shown on the cards before your time runs out.
Difficult challenges earn you extra points but really use up your time. The player with the most points wins the game.

Great fun for 2-4 players, of any age.

Make 'N' Break Extreme is also now available here

The 24-Game

The 24-Game is a card game using puzzle cards. It is available as either 48 cards in a pack or 96 cards in a sturdy box. The cards are large and high quality. The game is very easy to learn as there is always only one rule: use all 4 numbers with any operation (add, subtract, multiply, divide) to make 24. There are a wide range of sets to cater for increasing levels of difficulty:
     Single digits then double digits
     One of the numbers is a fraction or a decimal
     Some or all of the numbers are negative
     One of the numbers is shown as an algebraic expression!

Card packs can be purchased from the Mathzone.
Rules for playing a simpler version with a standard pack of cards-here

Play online - here



Visionary is a game for 4 players in two teams. For each pair of players, a "Builder" is chosen who wears a blindfold. The other player is an "Architect" who has to describe which wooden shaped blocks are required to create the structure depicted on a card. The level of difficulty and points varies from card to card and it is the team that completes its structure first in each round that wins.

Great fun and good for developing the vocabulary of 3D shapes.

Unfortunately, Visionary doesn't seem to be currently available in the UK - but it's well worth searching for a second-hand copy.

Apples to Apples Junior

Apples to Apples Junior

Apples to Apples is a wild, award-winning card and party game that provides instant fun and takes only minutes to learn!  It's as easy as 'comparing apples to apples'. Just open the box, deal the cards, and you're ready to play! Each round is filled with outrageous comparisons from a wide range of people, places, things, and events. The game promotes vocabulary development, general knowledge, and positive interpersonal relationships.
This Junior version is suitable for ages 9+.

See video demo of older version of Apples to Apples here

Rush Hour

Can you maneuver your way through Rush Hour and escape the gridlock? This wonderful sliding-block brainteaser is bumper-to-bumper fun for puzzlers of all ages. Forty challenge cards range from Beginner to Expert. Cards fit neatly into pull-out tray beneath the game tray. Ages 8 to adult.
A puzzle that seems to have a particular fascination for children and allows them to develop stamina  for problem-solving via the graded series of challenge cards. Also available in a junior version for ages 6+ and numerous other variations - 2,3,4,Railroad, Safari, Deluxe etc.
Try a simplified online version here

Produced by Thinkfun (previously Binary Arts) who have many other games and puzzles of interest.
Available from many toy shops and the Happy Puzzle Co in the UK.


Wasgij Jig-saw Puzzles

The picture on the box is not the picture on the puzzle pieces but contains clues to complete the jigsaw. The completed puzzle reveals why the people in the picture are reacting they way they are!

Available in W.H.Smith, Argos and many toy shops.

Grid Works

Grid Works is a pattern matching puzzle based on the principles of logical deduction.
The clues are presented as full or partial grid sections which show where the tokens are placed. For each clue, imagine that someone took a finished solution, cut away some of the squares, removed some of the tokens, and replaced some of them with the corresponding shape or color symbols. You’re left with an accurate but incomplete picture of how the tokens relate to each other (and in the case of negative clues, how they don’t relate to each other).

Play an online version here



Zome is based on a version of the 61-zone structural system which includes purely mathematical models from tilings to hyperspace projections, as well as molecular models of quasicrystals and fullerenes, and architectural space frame structures. Zome's balls (nodes) and struts let you build models within the 61-zone system which lifts the study of these objects off the flat page and literally puts it into the hands of students.
You don't have to understand any of the above to build great models with Zome. Available in the UK from Tarquin Publications.

Watch a video here

Board & computer games boosting intelligence

Interesting article in 'Nurtureshock' (December 2009) on research into using the sort of board and computer games that we have been recommending on this website. Research at UC Berkely finds surprising improvements in reasoning ability and cognitive processing speeds.


.....more to follow....