I've rounded up some simple and affordable ideas for teachers and parents to use to encourage logical reasoning skills! They're all quiet activities that are great for students to work on individually at a desk, or parents can throw them in the car, take to a restaurant or even on a plane for some tech-free entertainment.
Here are my favorite screen-free activities (affiliate links included) to strengthen critical thinking and problem-solving skills:
Update: I just got these Kakooma cards for my elementary-age daughter to try and she LOVES them! It's a race to see who can be the first to find three numbers that form a sum. This is a great way to help kids master their addition facts and is so much more engaging than traditional flashcards. There are easier problems with 5 numbers to choose from on one side and the harder side has 9 numbers to choose from. There's also a Kakooma Multiplication and Division game that I'm planning to order when my daughter is ready. The size of these cards is nice and compact so it's something easy to take with you in the car or to a restaurant.
1) Puzzle Squares: These were always first to go off the shelf! Students love rearranging the squares to try to get them all to fit together. They are harder than they look! They stack up nicely and easily fit in a ziplock bag.
2) Izzi Cards: These little black and white cards are so fun! You have to arrange them up so the colors match up and see if you can fit them all together. The box comes with enough cards to divide up into multiple ziplock bags so several students can play at their desk at a time or use them all together to make a larger pattern.
3) 24 Game Cards: Kids love this game! If you have not played it, you need to give it a try. You must use all 4 numbers on the card only once and can add, subtract, multiply, or divide to make 24. Such a great way to help improve mental math skills. You can play it individually or as a group and see who can come up with an answer the fastest. I always kept a stack of cards available for my students that wanted to practice - they got pretty competitive!
4) The Triangle Game: Such a classic. So simple, but kids love it! I keep mine in a ziplock bag for easy transfer and storage.
5) A Tangram Set: I have a few different tangram sets that I put in ziplock bags. Great for developing spatial awareness and problem solving skills!
6) KenKen and Sudoku Puzzles: Many of my students loved to do KenKen or Sudoku puzzles so I would tear some out of a book to have available or find some free ones online to print. For those of you who haven't tried KenKen puzzles before, they're like sudoku puzzles but use basic math operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division).
7) Kanoodle: This puzzle kit has 12 different colored pieces that you must fit together to match the diagram. It comes with a little book of 200 different puzzles that start pretty simple but work up to deceptively hard 3-D puzzles! So great for improving critical thinking and problem-solving skills. My first-grader can do the puzzles at the beginning, but the 3-D ones are hard even for me! It comes with a little carrying case that's small and easily fits in my purse. My daughter likes to do these on long car trips.
8) Brain Teasers and Logic Puzzles: I used to have a whole stack of books with fun brain teasers and logic puzzles. I would tear out a few pages and make copies to have available for students. Sarah Carter has a whole slew of free printable ideas over at her blog, Math Equals Love, that you should check out if you need some ideas! I would recommend laminating them so you can reuse them!
What about you? Any activities you think I should add to the list? Let me know in the comments!