7 Fun Creative Thinking Games to Improve Your Creativity and Thinking Skills

People who refer to out-of-the-box see the box … People who don’t know the box even exists are the innovative thinkers.Lisa Goldenberg

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Picture this:

Your company downsizes and you get “let go” (oh no!). Over the next few months, you apply for every job imaginable, but the economy’s bad and no one’s hiring, and your bills are all overdue. (Hey, it happens more often than you might think!)

You need groceries, so you decide to take things into your own hands.

You decide to open Microsoft Word, try to write a book, and upload it to sell on the Amazon Kindle store to earn some quick cash. And in case that doesn’t work out, you’ll also create a useful product that you can make yourself (to save money) that solves a problem people have.

So you sit down, open your document to start brainstorming some ideas for what to write about and what to create………

Oh no!

You’ve let your creative thinking skills atrophy! You have forgotten how to be creative. You can’t even begin to think of one topic to write down!

It seems you’ve spent the last 15 years “going with the flow”, mindlessly going to work, coming home, watching TV, going to bed, getting up, and doing it all over again, with a few trips and get-togethers with friends and family thrown in.

But you know what?

Anyone, at any age, can improve their creative thinking skills. Lots of scientific studies say so.

The fun way to start improving your creative thinking skills is to use games.

Creative thinking games are effective, and best of all, they’re fun.

What’s a Creative Thinker, Anyway?


To give you the most entertaining and effective creative thinking games, I researched the main qualities that the top creative thinkers throughout history have had in common.

Once you know what traits to pursue to be a creative thinker, you can pick and choose the games that will develop your skills in the areas in which you’re a little lacking….

Creative Thinkers tend to:

  1. See Things in Different, Unique Ways

  2. Be Open-Minded / Not Judgmental / Accepting and Observing

  3. Be Able to Adapt to Almost any Situation that Arises

  4. Make Do with What They Have or Can Get

  5. Ability to Focus Their Minds and Stay with a Task for a Long Time

  6. They’re Often Smart, but are Somewhat Mentally and Emotionally Immature

  7. Ability to Do Divergent Thinking – which is thinking that has no agreed-upon solution.

    But they have convergent (rational) thinking skills, too, such as being able to tell a bad idea from a good idea.

  8. Able to Generate a Large Number of Various Ideas.

  9. Cognitively Flexible. Able to switch from one viewpoint to another.

  10. Able to Choose an Unusual Association of Ideas.

  11. Combine playfulness and discipline, or mix responsibility with irresponsibility.

  12. They see reality as it is now, but they are also able to see a fantasy world – a world where things could be much different.

  13. They generally don’t conform to typical gender stereotypes.

    Creative girls are more dominant and tough than what society thinks girls should be, and creative boys and men can be more in touch with their feminine side.

    They aren’t afraid to break the roles of society’s traditions.

  14. Tend to be Sensitive and Passionate.

From  Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

Let’s get to the games…

 

In the list below, I’ve included the specific trait or area of thinking that that particular game will work to improve (along with any scientific studies showing that it works).

And to get the most out of this article, don’t just read it – make a promise to yourself that you’ll actually do one.

Of course, doing one game on one day isn’t going to do much for you, so try to pick at least one of these exercises and practice it every day, 5 days a week, for at least a month.

1. RAT (Remote Associates Test)


This game is from a test that was developed by Mednick and Mednick in 1962 to test students’ creativity potentials.

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I use it as a game, though, because it is a great exercise to stimulate the brain, create new neural connections, and improve recall.

How To Do It

Task: You’re given 3 words. Find the word that relates to all 3.
Questions range from Very Easy, Easy, Medium, Hard, to Very Hard.
Example:
(Very Easy)  sleeping, bean, trash __________ (answer: bag)
(Very Easy) Fountain, Baking, Pop _______________  (soda)
(Easy) Aid, Rubber, Wagon _____________ (band)
(Medium) Sense, Courtesy, Place ____________ (common)
(Hard) Piece, Mind, Dating _______________ (game)
(Very Hard) Home, Sea, Bed _______________ (sick)

To take one where you don’t see the answers , check out this one.

2. Alternative Uses


This exercise was originally invented in 1967 by J.P. Guilford to measure divergent thinking. Simply put, it measures your ability to begin with concrete information and then creatively come up with multiple solutions or uses.

How To Do It

Take any object and come up with as many uses for it as you can.

Example: Think of as many uses for a wastebasket as you can.

Another one: How many uses can you find for a yard gnome?

You can choose any object and do the same thing.

Scoring is based on 4 factors:

  1. Originality – If the test is given to many people, each response is compared to the total amount of responses from all of the people who took the test.

    Responses that were given by only 5% of the group are considered unusual (1 point). Responses given by only 1% of the group are unique – (2 points). Total all the points. Higher scores indicate more creativity.

  2. Fluency – This just refers to the total. Simply add up how many uses you came up with.

  3. Flexibility – refers to the number of different categories. For example, if 3 of your answers fit the category “Food”, those three answers count as 1 in Flexibility.

  4. Elaboration – how much detail you come up with (e.g., “a hammer” = 0 whereas “a hammer to hit the door in order to make it unusable” = 2 points (one for explaining the hitting, another point for further details about the usability).

3. Video Games


Believe it or not, some video games improve your creative thinking skills.

This study tested real-time strategy video games’ effectiveness on cognitive function and flexibility in thinking.

The results showed a “large increase in cognitive flexibility” after people spent 40 hours over a 6-8 week period playing the real-time strategy game (RTS) “Starcraft”. (In Starcraft, you have to construct and organize armies to battle an enemy).

Games to Get You Started

  • Starcraft – great for beginners

  • Command and Conquer

  • Warhammer

  • Homeworld – for advanced gamers because it’s in 3D, so you have to look all around in 3 dimensions

4. Do a “working memory” training program


Doing exercises to improve your memory turn out to also improve your creative thinking skills and “fluid intelligence”.

Fluid intelligence has to do with your reasoning skills and your ability to come up with new solutions to problems without using any of your previously acquired knowledge, so it’s a part of creative thinking.

This study showed that people aged 75-87 who went through a memory training program improved their memory (several types of memory), processing speed, and fluid intelligence. And, the results persisted – they showed improved results even 8 months after the experiment ended!

And this study showed that people who used the memory program called Dual N Back improved both short-term (“working”) memory and fluid intelligence (which includes features needed for creative thinking skills).

Play Dual n Back

You can play this game by either downloading and installing it on your computer, or by playing the online version.

The downloadable version is available through sourceforge, and you can read all about it there, as well.

If you don’t want to download and install it, however, check out the online version.

5. Do Complex Puzzles


Working on complex puzzles also improve your creative thinking skills.

This study showed that people who played the physics-based puzzle game called Cut the Rope for as little as an hour a day improved their cognitive flexibility skills.

 

Play Free the Ball

In this puzzle game, all you have to do is drag the tiles to make a path for the ball.

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6. Unfinished Pictures


Practice being able to generate a lot of different ideas by playing “unfinished pictures”.

As we get older, we get less adept at being able to take an unfinished picture and turn it into something. But, it’s a skill you can work on and improve so that you don’t lose that ability.

How to Play

Take an incomplete shape. You can download this pdf that contains 12 starter shapes (along with an example), or you can just doodle a random, abstract shape.

Use your creative thinking skills, and come up with something off-the-wall to create from the unfinished picture – then go ahead and draw it.

How original can you be?

You can use the same shape multiple times and draw different creatures or objects every time.

7. Random Words Game


Part of creative thinking involves being able to take seemingly random objects, ideas, or words and put them together in a new and meaningful way.

You can practice this skill by playing “Random Word Association”.




There are a lot of different variations to it. Here are some, and I’ll bet you can make up your own, as well.

How to Play

Use the random word generator below to get 5 random words (or however many you want).  Write them down.

  • Make up a jingle for a commercial using all 5 words
  • Write a paragraph for a sci-fi story (or romance, or whatever!). You must use all 5 words in the paragraph.
  • Make up a mnemonic for something (it doesn’t have to be a real thing) using all 5 words
  • Locate objects in the room you’re in. See if you can find some way to relate those 5 words to that object.

What Do You Think?
What games do you use to increase your creativity? Please share in the comments below.
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Michele Swensen is a writer and web designer who loves learning, animals, writing, reading, and playing the piano. She’s a member of Mensa and a college graduate.

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Michele Swensen is a writer and web designer who loves learning, animals, writing, reading, and playing the piano. She’s a member of Mensa and a college graduate.
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