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  • Krissy Chutskoff

The Benefits of Word Games for Brain Fog and Literacy Skills

In our fast-paced daily lives, it's not uncommon to experience moments of mental haze or “brain fog.” Whether it's the result of stress, fatigue, information overload, or lingering effects from a medical condition or treatment, finding effective ways to clear the mental cobwebs becomes crucial.


After suffering an illness that left me with long-term brain fog, I came to accept that daily memory issues and fogginess were unavoidable and would require ongoing effort to try to alleviate rather than eliminate. Enter word games – not just a source of entertainment, but a potentially powerful tool that offers a dual advantage! Besides being an enjoyable pastime, engaging in word games has been proven to not only help alleviate brain fog but also enhance essential literacy skills.


In this post, I list my personal favourite brain fog busting word games. Three of my top four picks can be found on the New York Times word games app, which offers even more free word games not featured in this post to check out.

Give them a try and see if some of these seemingly simple games can be your secret weapon for a sharper mind and improved literacy!


This game took the world by storm during the pandemic and has stuck around due to continued popularity. Wordle is a word guessing game where players try to guess and then logically figure out a mystery five-letter word in six attempts. You begin the game by choosing any valid 5-letter word and pressing enter. Feedback for each guess is provided in the form of colored tiles to indicate if letters match the correct position. Use the auto generated feedback from each guess to eliminate possibilities and refine your next guesses. If you guess the hidden word within six attempts, you win! If not, the hidden word is revealed, and you can try again the next day with a new word. A new puzzle is released daily at midnight.


Canuckle has the exact same design and game play instructions as Wordle, but each answer word has a unique connection to Canada. An extra neat feature of Canuckle is that a “fun fact” about the daily word will pop up after you play. I’ve learned so many interesting facts about Canada in the time I’ve been playing (just the other day I learned that instant mashed potatoes were invented in Canada!).

New York Times Mini Crossword

The New York Times Mini is a daily, free and quick version of the world-renowned New York Times Crossword. It features a compact puzzle with straightforward clues, designed to be solved in a short amount of time. To play, fill in the answers to short clues using a limited

number of squares, aiming to quickly and accurately complete the grid. The objective is to fill the white squares in the grid by solving the across and down clues, forming words or phrases.

A helpful tip is to approach the crossword without strictly following the order of the listed clues.

Begin with the ‘gimmies,’ answers you immediately know. These can vary based on individual strengths, such as sports trivia or entertainment knowledge. Scan the clue list first to identify answers you recognize, and don’t hesitate to skip around. Often, an initially unclear clue may become apparent as you uncover a letter or two. Although there’s no time limit, challenge yourself to finish under a certain number of minutes for an extra element of excitement and pride!


New York Times Connections

In Connections, players are given a list of 16 words and the goal of the game is to find groups of four words that share common themes. Each puzzle has one solution of groups, so watch out for words that seem to belong to multiple categories – this can be tricky!


Dollar Store “Easy” crosswords and Word Finds

If you prefer tangible books rather than using websites or apps on your phone, a range of physical word puzzle books can usually be found quite cheap at your local dollar store. These are great to take places where phones and tablets may be discouraged or not recommended, like clinic waiting rooms or the beach. Word searches are specifically known to help improve spelling and vocabulary, increase concentration, and even decrease risk of neurological disorders such as dementia.


It’s important to remember that these puzzle games should be fun and not stressful. Try out a few, and if you find something you enjoy, try to stick with it. Just like regular exercise for your body, repetition, and routine is key to working out your brain and literacy skills in this way!


Happy brain exercising!


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