Do Board Games Enhance Cognitive Skills?

Board games have lived through centuries, evolving with time and technology, providing a source of entertainment and learning for people across different age groups. From simple dice games played in ancient civilizations to the sophisticated board games available on Google Play Store today, they have always been a part of human society. But beyond the simple pleasure of playing, have you ever considered the cognitive benefits that board games might offer?

In recent years, scholars in various fields have conducted studies shedding light on the potential cognitive benefits of board games. They suggest that these traditional forms of play can improve memory, boost thinking abilities, and enhance other cognitive skills. Let’s delve deeper into the exciting world of board games and explore how they could be more than just a fun pastime.

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The Cognitive Benefits of Board Games

The benefits of playing board games extend beyond the fun and camaraderie experienced during the game. Researchers have found solid evidence pointing towards the cognitive benefits of these games. Whether it’s a strategy-based board game or a simple game of chance, playing these games can work wonders in stimulating the brain and enhancing cognitive skills.

Studies conducted on children’s play habits reveal that board games can significantly improve their cognitive abilities. They help to hone problem-solving skills, enhance memory, improve concentration, and foster strategic thinking. For instance, a study published in PubMed highlighted that board games can effectively support children’s cognitive development, specifically in areas like executive function and reasoning.

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Improving Memory and Concentration

Games, particularly board games, have been linked in several studies to improvements in memory and concentration. When you play a board game, you need to remember the rules, recall previous moves, and strategize for the future, all of which provide an excellent workout for your memory muscles.

In a study examining the effects of board games on the elderly, researchers found significant improvements in participants’ memory and concentration levels. Similarly, a study published on Google Scholar highlighted the effectiveness of board games in improving the memory function in children of different age groups.

Enhancing Problem-solving and Strategic Thinking

Board games often require players to make strategic decisions and solve problems, which can lead to an enhancement in these skills. One has to plan their moves, anticipate opponents’ actions, and adapt their strategies based on the changing dynamics of the game. This helps to develop an individual’s problem-solving skills and strategic thinking abilities.

A study conducted among school-age children found that those who regularly played board games showed improved problem-solving skills compared to their non-playing peers. Another study published in the Journal of Gerontology indicated that older adults who played board games were more likely to maintain cognitive function, specifically strategic thinking and problem-solving abilities.

Social Skills and Emotional Intelligence

In addition to their cognitive benefits, board games have been found to have a positive impact on social skills and emotional intelligence. When playing a board game, players engage in social interaction, negotiation, communication, and cooperation. These interactions can help children and adults alike to develop better social skills and emotional intelligence.

A study published in Child Development found that board games can help children better understand emotions, improve their ability to empathize, and develop stronger social skills. Additionally, a Google Scholar search will reveal numerous studies that have found links between playing board games and improved emotional intelligence in both children and adults.

Board Games and Lifelong Cognitive Health

Playing board games isn’t just a pastime—it could also be a protective factor against cognitive decline with age. Board games require players to stay focused and make strategic decisions, which can keep the brain active and healthy.

Research has shown that keeping the brain active and engaged can slow cognitive decline and might even stave off dementia. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that adults who regularly played board games had a lower risk of developing dementia compared to those who did not play games.

In conclusion, the next time you sit down to play a board game, remember that you’re not just having fun. You’re also giving your brain a workout, developing your problem-solving skills, and potentially improving your memory. So go ahead, roll the dice, and let the games begin!

The Connection Between Board Games and Working Memory

While working memory might not be something you think about when setting up a board game, it’s an integral part of the process. Working memory is the part of the brain that holds and manipulates information over short periods, and board games offer an excellent way to exercise it.

According to a study cited by Google Scholar, the mere act of playing a board game can provide a significant boost to a player’s working memory. The study found that playing board games led to increased activation in the prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain associated with working memory. This increase in activation suggests that board games can help exercise and strengthen our working memory muscles.

When playing a board game, players must keep track of multiple pieces of information and variables. They have to remember the rules, the current state of the board, their own strategy, and potentially the strategies of other players. All of this information is stored in the working memory, and by constantly updating and manipulating this information during a game, players are essentially giving their working memory a thorough workout.

Board games also offer a level of complexity that can be beneficial for working memory. Many games involve multiple steps or phases, requiring players to hold and manipulate information over longer periods. This can help to further stretch and strengthen the working memory, leading to potential improvements in cognitive function.

The Impact of Time Spent Playing Board Games on Cognitive Abilities

The time spent playing board games can also have a significant impact on cognitive abilities. Many board games are not quick, 10-minute affairs; they require extended periods of concentration, strategy, and decision-making. This prolonged engagement can provide a more substantial workout for the brain, leading to greater cognitive benefits.

A study published on Google Scholar found that the longer the time spent playing board games, the greater the benefits for cognitive function. This was especially true for strategy-based games that require deep thinking and planning. The study suggested that the cognitive benefits of board games are not just a result of the physical act of playing, but also the mental effort involved in strategizing and decision-making.

Moreover, the same study found that older adults who spent more time playing board games showed slower cognitive decline compared to those who did not play as often. This suggests that board games could be a beneficial tool in maintaining cognitive health in older age.

However, it’s important to note that while extended periods of playing board games can be beneficial, balance is also essential. Just like any form of exercise, it’s crucial to take breaks and not overdo it.


In the light of the aforementioned research, it’s clear that board games are far more than just a source of entertainment. They hold potential cognitive benefits that could enhance memory, concentration, problem-solving, strategic thinking, and working memory. They can also contribute to the development of social skills and emotional intelligence.

The time spent playing board games can stimulate mental effort involved in strategizing and decision-making, which ultimately enhances cognitive abilities. Moreover, board games could play a fundamental role in maintaining cognitive health in older adults, slowing down cognitive decline.

Ultimately, whether you’re a fan of chess, prefer Monopoly, or enjoy a good round of Scrabble, remember that playing board games isn’t just about winning or losing. It’s about stimulating your cognitive functions, challenging your brain, and most importantly, having fun. So, embrace the joy of board games, and give yourself the cognitive boost you didn’t know you needed.