Thursday, 28 January 2016

Puzzles and Games for Developing Logical Thinking in Kids and Teens

We hear (and say!) a lot about the important of kids learning to code. But coding isn't the only way to develop kids' skills for a future in computing. I would actually say that logical thinking is more useful than the specifics of coding.

Coding is a good way to develop logical thinking (so don't stop doing that!) but it's not the only way and there's definitely benefit to spending time on other activities. I've spent a lot of time learning about logical thinking as a child before I had access to computers. I had no idea that it was just the right thing for a future computer scientist to be doing, but it was.

I've put together my thoughts on the importance of logical thinking and some of our favourite games and puzzles that help develop logical thinking. We'll cover apps for logical reasoning in future, but it's good to have some screenless activities that develop tech skills.

Apparently January 29th is Puzzle Day. This is a topic we've been meaning to cover for a while so today's a good day for it.

See also: Games that teach coding concepts to kids

What is Logical Thinking?

Logical thinking or logical reasoning is applying formality to the way we think about things. It is reasoning in a disciplined way. It's working things out in a systematic way based on starting facts that you know to be true or false. 

There's lots of theory that underpins logical thinking in the fields of philosophy and mathematics. Our article about George Boole is a good place to start if you want to help you kids learn more about Boolean logic specifically. 

Logical Thinking is an aspect of Computational Thinking which is the set of thinking skills that are needed to be a computer scientist (and which are pretty valuable in everyday life too.)

The best way to get kids started with logical thinking is by playing games and solving puzzles. 

Why is Logical Thinking Important?

Logical thinking enables us to develop computer systems. Computers are only able to think logically, though with increasingly sophisticated logic, we need to be able think logically in order to get the best from computers. 

Logical thinking is a generally useful skill too. It helps you to understand that alarmist headlines often don't follow from the facts in an article. And it can be useful, if annoying, for winning arguments.

Logical Thinking Games

Lots of board games have an element of logical thinking to them, especially strategy games such as chess. 

Clue / Cluedo

Clue (Cluedo in the UK) is a classic game that develops logical thinking. Players must eliminate suspects, weapons and rooms until they narrow down the circumstances of a murder. Logical thinking is critical here and players who grasp the rules of logic will have a distinct advantage. (There's even an academic project that explores the logic theory of Clue. )

There's also a Junior version available for younger players where you have to identify a cake thief instead of a murderer.

Cluedo is a favourite in our house although my partner often gets banned for being too good (he's fab at logical thinking and doesn't believe in letting the kids win!)


Labyrinth was a big hit for us this Christmas. It has a really simple premise, you need to move your piece around the board to collect the pictures on your cards.

But each move changes the board as players can slide rows and columns. You have to be able to think through the full impact of any move you make as several pieces will move at once and change the paths that are open to you.

This really makes your brain work. It's also a game where you find yourself thinking through the implications of other players moves (and their impact on them and you) so you're not sat doing nothing in between turns.

Forbidden Island

Forbidden Island was another hit for us at Christmas. It's a collaborative board game so either everyone wins or everyone loses. 

The goal is to save a set of treasures and then get off the island before it gets flooded. Each player gets to perform 3 actions on their and you have to think logically several steps ahead to make the most of your moves. The collaborative aspect means that everyone is involved throughout the game. 

Kids will find themselves reasoning using rules and constraints, and thinking several moves ahead. The board game is made from cards which means that the game is different every time. 

Logical Thinking Puzzles

There's not always someone else around to play a board game with so it's good to have some one player puzzles too.

Smart Games: IQ FIT

IQ FIT by Smart Games is a great compact choice for trips and car journeys and for passing round at a holiday gathering. You have to solve puzzle cards by placing brightly coloured 3D shapes into a case.

It's suitable for kids from age 6. We got it for my 7 year old son for his birthday. It will definitely challenge a wide age range.

IQ Fit is nicely made and all the pieces fit into the case for storage so it's very practical too. The quality is good and its a great puzzles to have around when you have visitors staying.

Smart Games have lots of other logical thinking games for children too including very young children.

Rush Hour

Rush hour is a modern classic. I first came across it when my eldest nephew played it. You arrange plastic vehicles on a grid according to a puzzle card and must then move pieces to free a particular car. 

Rush hour is recommended for age 8+ but we'd start a bit younger with this one for kids who are interested. 

Also look out for Junior and Safari versions of the game.

Laser Maze Game

This Laser Maze game is a really good way of developing logical thinking. The aim is to shine a laser onto a target. Yes, there's technology in this one too, we like that! You get a set of puzzle cards to solve with constraints on how you can place the pieces. The early puzzles are fairly easy but it does get progressively harder.

We have this and it's one that comes out at intervals and my 9 year old son plays it until it gets too tricky and then puts it away for a while. It's recommended for age 8+ which seems about right to us.

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