Mitch Moldofsky is a parent, writer and instructional designer. He was first turned on to computers in education by Seymour Papert’s book, Mindstorms about the creation of Logo. He holds a B.Sc. in Cognitive Science and Psychology from the University of Toronto.
About the Thinking Skills Club
Research on how the brain works has shown that playing some types of computer games improves cognitive skills. This has led to the development of computer game-based therapies to help with specific conditions like ADD or Alzheimers, and to a brain training industry aimed at helping baby boomers stay sharp.
Two problems with this picture are 1) what about the rest of us (especially average kids and those who have issues but don't qualify for programs) and 2) the games aren't any FUN!
There are a number of online sites offering brain games, but they offer little variety and can become a chore, with kind of defeats the purpose. Luckily, there are lots of free games on the internet made by game designers, not doctors, that build many of the same skills. If only someone would do the research to find such games and put them on a website so everyone could use them when their kid wants to play Megadeath 3...
And that's what this site is.
This is a 'curated' site: the games are selected based on published research but most have not been the subject of studies themselves.
Links to the supporting research can be found on the Research dropdown menus.
Violence and gender
I've kept violent, sexist and racist games off this site due to their negative effects. I will respond seriously and promptly to any complaints.
_Ideally, all of the games would run on this website itself, but a few have ads or take kids to other sites because the games that are here are borrowed from those sites. I have considered contracting with game developers directly to prevent this, but decided not to for two reasons:
1) I want to stay arm's length from the game developers. This way you know the only reason a game is here is due to its benefits.
2) The target age for this site is Grades 3 through 8, and at that age most kids who are on the internet visit other sites anyway.
If you are concerned about internet safety (as I am), there are filtering products such as Net Nanny, Google Safe Search and safety settings on most browsers and sites to help you manage your child's exposure.
Why a "Club"?
Because kids love to play together.
When I went looking at "brain training" products aimed at kids, I found many that were proprietary and expensive being marketed to special needs parents. The games themselves were often boring, to be used in a therapist's office or at home. It fell to the parents or doctors to enforce their use, often daily over a period of weeks.
Though I believe that kids do benefit from such programs if they stick with them, if your child doesn't, you're left turning to the next costly program, each time with slightly less commitment, which by itself reduces the likelihood of success.
Meanwhile I saw my own kids playing free games on the internet that seemed to train the same kinds of skills, and I didn't have to force them to play--I couldn't even get them to stop! I also noticed the library at their school had 20 or so computers that were sitting idle after school. So I collected the games on a website and started an after school club. The kids not only liked the games but enjoyed sharing the experience and helping one another. I developed the Brain Puzzle so that they would spend time on games they might not otherwise try because they weren't as easy. Then I decided to make the site public so others could do the same.