Several years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season. I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually (except for 2019) on every November and December. These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program. Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child. For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, including my 2021 list, you can visit this page. I also have a Pinterest Board of Games and Toys for Gifted Students.
Remember those plastic sliding puzzles you would get as party favors or in cereal boxes or for wedding gifts back in the old days?
Okay. They looked like this.
And you had to slide the tiles to get the numbers in order. Or maybe they had a picture that was all mixed up and you were supposed put the picture back together by, again, sliding the tiles.
Or, you could just pop out the tiles like I did and press them back in…
Just me again?
I think I’ve made it pretty clear on this blog that spatial activities never came very easily to me, so it’s probably not a surprise that I didn’t really like those puzzles. But I’m all for cultivating a growth mindset and challenging myself now that I’m older. So, I went ahead and ordered Brain Connect even though it wasn’t in my preferred game category (word games). I thought, and I was right, that it would tick some of the boxes on my Gifts for the Gifted criteria list.
First of all, Brain Connect is definitely not your mother’s or grandmother’s sliding puzzle. There are four puzzle boards included in the game, and each one has small tabs beside each row and column. The tabs are kind of like off and on switches. You keep them so that the red color shows except for the places where your path should join. Those you make green. So, you’re basically trying to connect the green squares by sliding the tiles in the middle to make a continuous path.
There are two recommended play variations in the set. The first one is to exchange a board with another person, have them randomly switch two tabs to green, give it back to the original player, and race to see who finishes first. The second is to use the cards in the box by flipping one over and having all players slide the same two tabs over so that they are racing to complete the same challenge. Of course, it won’t be exactly the same since their tiles will probably have begun in different places and there are potentially several answers for some of the challenges. You earn cards based on the place you achieve (1st, 2nd, or 3rd) each time. To win a multi-player game, collect 10 cards first.
You could also play the game solo if you happen to like that kind of entertainment.
Brain Connect is a good game to put in a classroom center, or to give your kids in the back seat of the car. Parents can play against children fairly, and you can give harder cards (the ones with wheels on them) to make it a bit more difficult for spatially gifted players. Durability-wise, it’s fairly easy to carry 4 boards around (maybe not the cards) without losing them. It would be nice if there was a bag, though, since the box takes up more space. The boards seem pretty impervious to normal mistreatment, like dropping them accidentally. But I wouldn’t rule out young hooligans like me who are tempted to pull the tiles out instead of sliding them.
Brain Connect is made by Blue Orange Games. As I am trying to support independent toy stores this year, here is a link so you can purchase Brain Connect from Kidding Around in NYC. However, you have some other options with Blue Orange. Go to their Shop page, and you can try to locate a store near you, or buy the game through their Shopatron page and “your order is automatically offered to local stores in your area that participate in the program.”