Train Your Brain with These Online Games

Games are fun, but they don't have to be a waste of time. Here are some fun online games to be a little less guilty about playing around instead of working. We can't guarantee that they'll turn you from a dolt to a genius, but they will force you to exercise some important mental skills.

Word Bubbles

word bubbles screenshot

Word bubbles is powered by Lumosity, a brain training website that we've looked at in the past. It's not the only game that's available, but it's one of our favorites. The game gives you a combination of three letters - like for, tri, arc, she and sym - and 30 seconds to come up with as many words that start with those three letters as possible. The catch is that you can only use the same amount of letters three times. The more words you come up with, and the more times you max out your three uses of the same number of letters per word, the higher your score is. Your speed, vocabulary and ability to quickly recall accurate spelling is exercised here.

Lumosity is a paid service in most instances, but there are a few places online, including the New York Times website, where you can access the games on a limited basis for free, without signing up. In addition to word bubbles, there are other challenging and addictive games that make you use basic math and other skills not used for word bubbles.

Skills Used

  • Typing speed
  • Vocabulary
  • Spelling
  • Attention to detail
  • Reaction time
  • Memory


There are a few online versions of this game, but one reliable version is from a sort of surprising source: the website of Parade magazine, that old Sunday newspaper stalwart. Numbrix works the same no matter where you find it, though it has a slightly different design at each site.

It's sudoku-like, in that the game is number-based and is played in a grid with specific constraints. No math beyond counting is necessary, though - it's simply a matter of putting numbers in order on a grid. Sound easy? Trust us, it isn't. In addition to being available through numerous sources on the Internet, you can also find numbrix apps for your smartphone.

Skills Used

  • Spatial relations
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Attention span

Math Lines

math lines screenshot

This game seems pretty simple - shoot individual colored and numbered balls at a row of similar shapes, numbered 1-9, to make a pair adding up to ten. The catch is that the row is moving, and if they reach a certain point, you lose. Making a correct pairing makes the row get shorter and move back a bit. The higher up you go in the game, the more challenging it gets. The track becomes shorter and more convoluted, and the row of balls also moves faster.

It's probably not the most intellectually challenging thing you can do in your free time, and the candy-colored setting certainly makes math lines feel like an indulgence. The simple arithmetical component and fun interface makes this a good game to share with kids.

Skills Used

  • Reaction speed
  • Attention to detail
  • Basic arithmetic
  • Analytical speed

Fun knowledge blogs are another good way to spend some guilt-free time relaxing online.

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