My 5-year-old son and I recently played Smarty Blocks, a game that stacks up the brain power for little learners and growing minds. The materials are simple: cards, cubes, and a sand timer, but those three tools equal 160 multilevel challenges in this game from Fat Brain Toys.

You can pretty much start playing right off the bat and right out of the box. Pick a card that offers a challenge, such as finding the cube that completes the word “_lock”, when the card has a picture of a clock on it, or find the colors on the cubes that match the pattern on the card. There are 10 blocks (or cubes) that each feature patterns, images, numbers, or letters on all six sides.

Fat Brain Toys Smarty Blocks

There are two levels: one for beginners and one for advanced players who know how to read. The two levels also enable multi-aged and learning abilities to be able to play together. The game touches on math, reading, logic, spelling and more—all of the Common Core Educational Standards.

The included timer is to encourage the player to complete the challenge(s) in the time allotted, but it is not required and play can happen without it. However, the timer gives a challenge to older players.

This game is great for spectrum learners (those children on the autism spectrum.) It works on the ability to identify numbers and letters, as well as to follow pattern and match them. As they progress, the cards (or timer) offer more challenges.

Kids can stack on a table or stack up to work on building power. Little players can enjoy just stacking the cubes, or ask them to simply find the picture of the monkey. It is a game that offers a variety of play opportunities for multi-ages and methods of learning.

I showed it to a program specialist who works with children with special needs and she “loved it!” It was fun and offered skill building at the same time. A big benefit for her clients. For me, it’s a fun way to play with my kids, while teaching them at the same time. A win-win for any parent!