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What is a brain teaser and why are they important for your child’s cognitive development?

According to the Collins Dictionary, a brain teaser is “a question, problem, or puzzle that is difficult to answer or solve, but is not serious or important.” I’m sure you remember those seemingly impossible puzzles from school that were really quite simple when you were given the answer.  Here are two examples (answers at the end of this post)

Q1: Mary’s father has five daughters: 1. Nana, 2. Nene, 3. Nini, 4. Nono. What is the name of the fifth daughter?

Q2: What appears once in a minute, twice in a moment, but never in a thousand years?

Our brains are composed of many, many neurons. These neurons form paths which become more developed each time we use them.  Not using a path means that it becomes overgrown (is more difficult to access) and we revert to the paths used most often. The benefits of exercising our brains are both short- and long-term.  Repetitive actions are important in youngsters as this creates strong paths for daily activities but it is equally important to keep stimulating new paths through constant exposure to new things, challenging activities (much encouragement here to keep them interested and focused) which are presented in a variety of ways.  Although a puzzle with pieces can only be put together in one particular way, you can vary the activity by focusing on colours on the pieces today and then the shapes tomorrow and so on.  Not only are you cementing the puzzle building skill, you are also enhancing it by focusing on different things in the puzzle itself.

Our brains need to be taught how to think critically, to pause and analyse.  For question 1, my brain went straight toNunu – following the pattern of the vowels in the names given for the first four.  Had I stopped for a moment to analyse the question (not jumped to the well-worn path), I would have seen the correct answer.  Puzzles in any form encourage our brains to work in different ways and the earlier we can teach critical thinking to our children, the better. 

How do you use puzzles to develop your child’s development? 


  1. Mary
  2. The letter ‘m’

Have some fun with a few more brainteasers.