At Catalyst Ranch, the original creative meeting venue located in Chicago’s West Loop, we take play pretty seriously.  Games are part of the landscape here at the Ranch.  Board games, card games, and puzzles adorn the book shelves around the perimeter of each room.  Sometimes our Monthly Giveaway Prize is a challenging puzzle or funky desktop toy.  We post a daily trivia question on our chalkboard in the lobby to get your wheels turning right away.  At lunchtime we share the question on our Facebook page so everyone can get in on the fun!  Our creative staff invented Pogo’s Activity Arcade, a vast collection of activities that your meeting facilitator can administer throughout the day.  This incredible resource includes brain teasers, riddles, and competitive and collaborative craft projects! You may be wondering, Catalyst Ranch is a top-notch meeting venue; what’s up with all the games?  As loyal Creative Juice readers know, purposeful play is an important part of the Ranch Philosophy.  In our effort to create the ideal meeting environment, we make toys and games available to trigger feelings of nostalgia which open up the imagination.  All of the stimuli at the Ranch is meant to engage the whole brain so your best ideas can flow.

music neuroplasticity brain

found on

In addition, games are actually good for you!!  You’ve probably heard that brain games like crossword and Sudoku puzzles can help improve brain function and delay the effects of aging – because it is true!  Once upon a time, scientists thought the brain was a static organ, but then neuroplasticity was discovered.  Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life.  Awesome, right?!  Your brain can change and even generate new cells when you participate in new challenging activities.  Even in older adults, certain games have been proven to improve cognitive function, multitasking skills, and concentration.  The Energizers we offer with every meeting are designed to do just that.  Energizers are focus exercises, team-building activities, guided meditation sessions, and icebreakers led by our creative Ranch Hands.  After lunch, a focus energizer keeps brains firing on all cylinders throughout the afternoon.  Or you can kick off your meeting with an icebreaker that makes everyone feels relaxed but alert and engaged. According to clinical neuropsychologist Dr. Paul Nussbaum, the best activities for brain fitness are ones that “make you simultaneously use both halves of your brain.”  Dr. Nussbaum suggests some fun activities that you may have on your bucket list already:  playing chess, learning a foreign language, playing a musical instrument, creating art, or meditating.  So, quit making excuses!  Now is the time to dust off your guitar, study French, or start sculpting a masterpiece! If you think you don’t have time to exercise your brain, there are fun quick ways to get a mental workout.  Check out this site, Games for the Brain!  You’ll find a variety of games including trivia, word puzzles, number games, and some very addictive spatial relations challenges.

marbles the brain store

Marbles the Brain Store

For those of you who prefer to step away from the screen (also great for brain health!), head over to Marbles the Brain Store.  Marbles is a great resource for unusual games that will get you to use your noodle!  Pick up a book, game, or puzzle for yourself or someone else; Marbles has great gift ideas for people of all ages. So, you may not be lucky enough to work at the Ranch where there are pipe cleaners in every pen cup and a stuffed monkey next to your desk, but you can still incorporate games and play into your every day! Bring a little fun into your office!  If you think your boss will balk, ease him or her into the idea with a unique desk toy!  According to the masterminds at Marbles, “Desk toys seem like major productivity killers. But these smart little suckers are handpicked for their ability to boost brain activity, zap stress and get you closer to that promotion, and the primo parking spot and corner office that come along with it.”  Sounds good to me!  Pass the Play-Doh!

What games or activities do you incorporate into your daily life to improve brain health?  Let us know in the comments, smarty pants!