At Yellow Wood we LOVE playing games to improve cognitive skills. One of my favorites is Sudoku. We also play a game called ColorKu, which is a “color” version of sudoku! It’s a great brain challenge, especially for those who have mastered the regular Sudoku game!
I'm sure you're aware that sudoku is a great "brain game" or "mental floss". But what exactly does sudoku do for your brain? It improves some very specific cognitive skills!
#1 Working memory
Working memory is the "post it" for your brain. You use it every day for many tasks! Sudoku improves working memory because it requires you to:
- hold onto the step you’re completing
- remember which numbers are on the board and missing
You’re working memory might be weak if:
- You struggle to remember what you’re looking for or what step you're on
- You need to write in each possible number in order to keep up with the puzzle, rather than holding those options in your head!
Visualization is the ability to see numbers, patterns, and images in your mind! Sudoku strengthens your visualization skills because:
- It requires you to picture in your mind what numbers go in the box, even if they aren't there yet
- You also have to look across the board and visualize where else that number could land
If you cannot “visualize” where the pieces might go, you’ll struggle to complete a more complicated sudoku puzzle. Visualization is also a skill needed in math, reading, and so many other daily tasks!
#3 Critical Thinking & Executive Function Skills
While playing sudoku, you must logically think of why a piece goes where it does. If you make a decision and it’s not correct, you’ll mess up the whole puzzle! I find many times students want to rush to fill out the board, but do not double and triple check their choices, or simply guess what looks correct at the time.
Playing a sudoku puzzle daily will help improve your critical thinking and executive functioning because:
- You'll practice working to self-check your decisions (AKA, self control and self monitoring!)
- You learn to make those decisions logically rather than guessing (AKA, critical thinking!)
There are also ways to add another layer to your game to make it even more of a brain workout! Here are a few tips for getting the most out of Sudoku:
#1 Play a board game version of the game!
It forces you to hold onto those numbers in your mind to complete a step without writing down the numbers, which will help improve both working memory and visualization!
#2 Verbalize your steps!
In Success Training, we require students to explain each move they want to make before they can make it! They must tell us what they want to do, and WHY that specific spot is the only option.
#3 Play the Colorku version!
With this game, your brain has to keep track of which colors are needed in a box, row, or line. While they may sound easier than numbers, for many it’s more challenging because our brains don’t visualize and hold onto color names as easily as with numbers 1-9. But, if a child struggles with the number version of sudoku, they may find the color version easier! Try both and see!