Crossword puzzles are good brain workouts at every age

With their up, down, and across, crossword puzzles develop skills in all directions—literally and figuratively. Some evidence suggests they even strengthen neural pathways in the brain. Whether taken up at age 8 or 80 crossword puzzles are definitely a great lifetime hobby.

For everyone, crossword puzzles can expand both general and subject-specific knowledge, build vocabulary, enhance deductive reasoning, and sharpen critical thinking skills. My First Crosswords Little Busy Book, for kids 6 to 8, offers 48 creative crossword puzzles with “clue words” as hints. The puzzles in the book strengthen children’s knowledge of synonyms, positional words, and homophones—words that are pronounced alike but have different meanings.

As skills and knowledge continue growing, the Crosswords Challenges Activity Zone Workbook for ages 8-up, also helps reading comprehension. Fill-in-the-blank and other questions based on short readings—most of them related to science—provide answers for completing the crosswords.

For a near-endless supply of crosswords, the ABC Teach website offers hundreds of printable crossword puzzles for kids in subject areas ranging from the solar system, to holiday themes and medicinal plants of the rainforest. The site also offers a Crossword Puzzle Generator for creating custom puzzles.

More than just the pride of completion, adults reap multiple benefits, too, from solving crossword puzzles. A 2013 Rewire Me article titled “Can a Puzzle a Day Keep Dementia Away?” by Ed Decker reported on a University of California, Berkely, study of adults 60+ who still had normal brain function. The study showed lower amounts of a destructive protein associated with the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, in participants who had engaged across their lifetimes in brain-stimulating activities such as playing games and reading books and newspapers. The Rewire Me article says, “According to Dr. Susan Landau, one of the investigators, any type of game that stimulates the brain may have contributed to the positive effect—including crossword puzzles, Sudoku, and even video games.”

The article also noted a University of California, San Diego, study of 488 community residents between 75 and 85, 101 of whom later developed dementia. Based on one standard measure, “memory decline in those with dementia occurred about two and a half years later in those who did crossword puzzles on a regular basis compared to those who didn’t. This cognitive benefit appeared independent of the level of education of the study participants, and even among those who had started doing crossword puzzles later in life.”

Why not start today? Grab a pair of 96-page Crossword Puzzles Workbooks for ages 9-up, with easy tear-out pages, and make travel and commute time more fun and productive. Or if “fine print” is taxing on the eyes, get this pair of 96-page Big Print Crosswords workbooks. For targeted crossword puzzle activity, online searches combining a favorite subject area—“ancient civilizations,” for example—with “crossword puzzles” can turn up hours of fascinating fun.

A great way to unwind, crossword puzzles are also a great way to get and stay sharp!