Games and fun stuff to help a new mother feel smarter!
February 1, 2014 5:40 AM   Subscribe

My friend just had her baby, and while she is loving motherhood, she also feels like after 10 months pause from work + hormonal adjustments, tiredness, sleep deprivation and time spent alone with a newborn she is... well... dumber than before. What sorts of stuff can a new mom do/play with her visitors to stimulate her intellectually and cognitively, while she does the same for her little one?

I'll be visiting them more often and I'd love to bring over games that are:

1) not too elaborate, with relatively simple rules, so that it's easy to start playing them (both for her and her visitors)
2) compatible with a baby's "schedule" of needs, ie. can be interrupted and continued without a lot of hassle
3) difficult enough to challenge a smart person (she is a "letters" person, so anything verbal is great, memorization, making connections, logic...)
4) for 2 or more players

Assume all her needs are being taken care of as well as possible (great support network, 2 sets of lovely grandparents nearby, great husband sharing responsibilities, healthy kid and good access to services, etc).

I already thought of playing Black Stories. I'd love to hear what y'all have to suggest!!
posted by ipsative to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Pandemic and other cooperative games (Pandemic is the best, but Flash Point, Ghost Stories, etc. all have something to them). Theme: Trying to save the world from disease. 2-4 players (5 if you add an antagonist). Can be easily paused if you use some household object as a 'player token' so you know whose turn it was (and only start doing things once you have your entire turn mapped out). Challenging in that you need to think ahead, plan a strategy, and will often lose. There are also mods on the internet if you find yourself getting to the highest difficulty and winning, to make it more challenging.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 5:57 AM on February 1, 2014

How old is this baby? Because both pregnancy and post-partum fog are 100% normal and usually don't lift until better sleep for everyone is achieved.

Having said that, I would go for something really simple like crosswords. You can read the questions out to her while she feeds or rocks, she can read the questions out to you while you do her dishes, etc -- this seems like a better plan than boardgames, which with the best will in the world I cannot imagine being routinely feasible with a newborn in the house.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:04 AM on February 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

[DarlingBri - the baby is 1 month old]
posted by ipsative at 6:07 AM on February 1, 2014

posted by Miko at 6:40 AM on February 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

I love the game Word on the Street. It's a letters game, it's very interrupt-able, it'd be good.

Also when my first was a teeny baby I was alone a lot, and I got a newspaper subscription and did the NYT crossword every day. I loved doing that.
posted by gerstle at 6:42 AM on February 1, 2014

Really heady podcasts helped for me in that; I was stay at home dad for the first year except for a very part time job, and listening to the history of Rome and the Byzantine empire along with a smattering of philosophical podcasts was great. Bonus points that you can listen to them while you're cleaning up vomit or gettig dinner ready.
posted by furnace.heart at 6:46 AM on February 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, crosswords and other games she can play alone on her own time (I liked solitaire and Tetris on my phone when I was on maternity leave). It's just not realistic for her to expect to be playing board games with guests.

On preview, podcasts are a great idea. I listened to Howard Stern on Sirius on my laptop, but more intellectual listening would have been possible, too!
posted by amro at 6:49 AM on February 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I was gonna say podcasts. They are wonderful at giving you ideas, things to wonder about, and things to share with other adults when you have the chance to converse. They make the time feel valuable, even if you are just washing dishes, walking around the park, housecleaning, laying down or whatever.
posted by Miko at 6:58 AM on February 1, 2014

I'm kind of in this boat, and am really enjoying language learning on Duolingo for exactly the purposes you describe. It's not as 100% interactive as playing a game together, but you can both sign up for accounts and compete with each other/ monitor each other's progress, which gives it kind of a "team" feel.
posted by Bardolph at 7:07 AM on February 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

We have a 6 week old and we have been inviting all our friends over to play Pandemic. It's a good choice because it's not competitive so nobody ends up feeling dumb, and you can change out players without compromising strategy or messing up the game play. We have interrupted and restarted many times!
posted by Cygnet at 8:04 AM on February 1, 2014

Seconding Duolingo!
posted by DisreputableDog at 8:21 AM on February 1, 2014

What about Scrabble, since she likes verbal stuff. Or, *shudder* Words with Friends (I got seriously sucked in to it). Totally take it at your own pace kinda game.

And nthing podcasts.
posted by kathrynm at 9:22 AM on February 1, 2014

There's this idea that improving cognitive performance requires doing puzzle-like activities or specific types of games. But there's increasing evidence that one of the most cognitively challenging things we do is interact with other people, and that socializing improves cognitive performance.

For example, from a study described in this link:

Participants were assigned to one of three groups: a "social" group that participated in a group discussion, an "intellectual activities" group that solved puzzles, and a control group that watched a television clip. After these activities, participants were tested to gauge cognitive performance, and those who spent their time socializing scored highest.

Certainly if your friend wants to play games you should bring her games. When I was a month out from birth I would have much preferred to just talk with a good friend. And that might be even better for her brain.
posted by medusa at 12:20 PM on February 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Has she requested this or are you very confident she would want? I ask only because as a new born carer both now and the first time around, as much as I decried my very real stupidity as a result of parental deprivations, the idea of trying to extend myself cognitively, at all, is just exhausting, especially in these early days.I would not be up for a game of boggle (and I love games), assuming I even have time for it as opposed to trying to shower, wash clothes etc etc

/written with 1 month old asleep on lap.
posted by smoke at 2:03 PM on February 1, 2014

What worked for me was setting up RSS feeds to really good sites on feedly/reeder on my phone, so that I could browse short blog posts one-handed while carrying a baby. It was like an endless magazine I could dip in and out of. Categories helped so on braindead days I could read popculture fluff and when I had twenty real minutes, I could read something more interesting. YA books were also a godsend for my attention span then. I would have murdered anyone suggesting a board game, personally - all those scattered pieces, the 20-45 minutes needed!
posted by viggorlijah at 5:25 PM on February 1, 2014

I am a huge fan of Story Cubes - right now the baby is too young, but soon he/she will be ready for story time, and these are a great brain-juicer (for mom!) to start inventing stories - which doesn't seem like a hard thing but when your kid asks you to tell them a story and you blank, it can feel really unsettling. Plus, once the baby develops language, they can play with them too (they're awesome airplane toys).

Seconding that it's really common to actually be stupider after childbirth - it's a natural weird hormonal thing, but most of it eventually comes back.
posted by Mchelly at 5:43 PM on February 1, 2014

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