Strengthen Cognitive Skills the Fun Way

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There are 26 letters in the English alphabet. Right?


But how many unique speech sounds (phonemes) do those 26 letters make?

Answer: 44

And how many unique letters or combination of letters (graphemes) are there that represent those 44 unique speech sounds?

Answer: about 461

Can you write even 200 unique letter combinations found in the English Language?

Keeping all of this in and out of mind takes a lot of cognitive powers for anyone. But what about people with dyslexia?

boy studying

Our brains are truly amazing.

But children and adults with reading differences may not agree. They are told to look up information in an encyclopedia and can become completely lost. When you can’t seem to do what comes easy for just about everyone else you know, you can begin to doubt your own intelligence. Even when you have people telling you how smart and talented you are you can feel inferior.

But, dyslexia is not unconquerable. And building some cognitive skills can help a person become a conqueror where reading fluency is concerned.

cog·ni·tive [kog-ni-tiv]
1. of or pertaining to the act or process of knowing, perceiving, remembering, etc.; of or relating to cognition: cognitive development; cognitive functioning.
2. of or pertaining to the mental processes of perception, memory, judgment, and reasoning, as contrasted with emotional and volitional processes.


PQ1-461graphemesSo, if reading fluency is a function of cognition, then, is it any wonder that there are people who have difficulty keeping 461 graphemes  in order?

Indeed, even fluent readers may still struggle with spelling when those words are being drawn from memory. We all need our level of cognitive function to be strengthened, but those who have dyslexia must be even more intentional if they are going to move towards reading fluency.

When we encourage activities that challenge their mental processes we help them not only improve reading skills, but we also empower them to excel in the areas that their minds seem to gravitate towards:  whether that be science, math, art, engineering, or even, yes, language arts. Puzzles, memory games, following directions or even visual (wordless) instructions can help increase our cognitive faculties. Try including these in your mix of  brain-builders:

1. Jigsaw puzzles-

The act of looking at a shape, considering the images on that shape, and determining how that shape fits into the big picture is an important skill. Perhaps you can even kill two birds with one stone. My kids have learned where the states are located by working the U.S.A. GeoPuzzle

2. Hidden pictures-

Remember Where’s Waldo? Having to find the needle in the haystack is not far from having to retrieve from your brain which grapheme you need to create a written word. Can You Find Me?  books are a favorite in our house.

3. Activity books-

Especially ones that give directions such as cookbooks, LEGOs wordless books, “how to draw” books, or any kit that must be put together in a proper order helps build essential cognitive abilities. I often suggest The LEGO website. Not only is it filled with LEGOs and their awesome wordless books. But they also have tons of FREE activities, videos and more. Klutz has some of the coolest activity books I have seen.

4. Memory games-

There are scores of the classic “face down” card games that foster strong memory by finding matches, or Go Fish where you must remember who is holding the card you need to complete a pair. For older children (and adults) Games like the classic CLUE or the fantastic drawing game Cartoon It! are excellent choices.

5. Hand over the smartphone, iPhone or Android-

Yes, I hate to admit it but video games can actually be good (in moderation of course). Candy Crush, Blip Blup, Solitaire and more can not only keep your child occupied, but actually build thinking skills while they play.

So load up on some fun mind building books, puzzles, and games. To be sure they will want to use them. Choose things that appeal to their interests, not yours. Soon you’ll find they are not struggling quite as much in the cognitive development department and they’ll be on their way to becoming better readers.


What fun ways do you use to strengthen your child’s cognitive skills? How about curriculum you have used? Share your ideas and thoughts in the comments. We want to hear from you.
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Robin Liner is a wife, and veteran homeschool mom with over twenty years experience. She has written two picture books and actively blogs about homeschooling with an emphasis on teaching dyslexic children at and Feel free to contact her at

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