When we talk about memory, it usually refers to a significant event that we can recall even years later. A first kiss, college graduation, or birth of a child are all events that tend to stick with us. That’s long-term memory.
But memory is also a major component of our day-to-day lives as well. Short-term memory helps us remember where we put our car keys. Implicit memory lets us complete tasks “without thinking,” like riding a bike, for example. Semantic memory helps us remember common knowledge like state capitals, historical dates, or the color of fire trucks.1
We couldn’t go a day without drawing on our memory in one way or another, which is why it’s so important that we do everything in our power to keep our minds sharp. As it turns out, that’s not such a hard thing, in fact it can even be (gasp!) fun. Take a look at these seven memory-enhancing games for quick and fun ways to keep your mind fit.
1 - Simon
These colorful, Frisbee-sized, discs are a throwback way to exercise your brain. Simon will play a sequence in which the four panels will light up and make a sound. Then you repeat Simon’s pattern. It’s no coincidence that the toy shares a name with the children’s game “Simon says.” But there’s nothing childish about training your brain to quickly recall complicated sequences. If you’re not ready to commit to the toy, try a free online version first.
2 - Crossword Puzzles
You can find the original brain teaser in your daily paper or online. Crossword puzzles are especially effective because they test multiple types of memory at once while also forcing us to think critically about how clues might fit with one another. Once you can breeze through the Sunday edition, try Sudoku puzzles for a math-y twist on a familiar concept to keep your brain engaged.
3 - Brain Age
If you’re a gamer, there’s a better way to exercise your mind than blasting zombies or creeping around deep behind enemy lines. Brain Age, offered on the Nintendo DS, offers a variety of problem-solving games including math-problems, drawing, and memorizing classic literature. Based on the research of Japanese neuroscientist Dr. Ryuta Kawashima, the game will track your progress over time and tell you your brain’s “age.”2 Video games don’t melt your mind after all!
4 - Rummy
104 cards, straights, triples, and throwing off – it’s no wonder that this card game is a memory exercise. Grab a friend (or five) and try your hand at this classic. After a few games you’ll realize the real challenge isn’t just remembering the rules and playing your hand well; you need to know what cards your opponents have picked up too. If you want to be the first one to five-hundred you’d better have your memory on a photographic level.
5 - Memory
The name says it all. After placing all 52 cards in a deck facedown, you and a partner take turns flipping over two at a time. Once you think you know where a pair of the same rank is, try to turn them over on your turn. If you’re right, you capture that pair. The game forces you to try to paint a mental picture of where each card is located while relying on your short-term memory. Finding your glasses is a breeze by comparison!
6 - Blackjack
Here’s a shout-out to the real card sharks. Not only do you have to have your probabilities and numbers down pat, but you also need to be aware of what cards are getting dealt around you. There’s a surprising amount of strategy involved for a game involving only a few cards at a time. Don’t bring your supercharged memory into the casino though…counting cards will get you the boot!
7 - Rubik’s Cube
Finally, one more colorful ‘80s throwback. Getting each side to show a matching color can be maddeningly difficult. That’s because you’re challenging your spatial intelligence and visual thinking abilities.3 More so than any other game on this list, you’ll need to coordinate your memory with conceptualization. Once you’re spinning sides so fast that the colors start to blur, it’s safe to say that you’re pretty sharp.