9 Sustainable Brain & Board Games For Adults
Games For Mindfulness
Shortly after taking a trip to Spain together with our respective partners, my sister gifted me a 1,500-piece puzzle of Antoni Gaudí’s Park Güell, one of our favorite sightseeing subjects in Barcelona. With my boyfriend out in terms of taking on the project as a team—but equipped with his smirks of encouragement, of course!—I cleared our kitchen table and embarked upon the jagged little pieces.
But after I picked up, attempted, rotated, rotated again, and then discarded my dozenth selection or so, I began to make meta discoveries between the puzzle and life itself. After all, the puzzle was making me delirious. At some moments, no amount of obsessing over or forcing my desired result was making a difference. In other instances, one correct choice ignited a giddy-making stretch of subsequent successes. By the time I completed it (see: three weeks later), I felt an empowered sense of accomplishment and was so happy I’d pushed through.
Moreover, I loved that doing the puzzle provided me a more present-minded alternative to watching TV or scrolling through my phone after work and actively challenged my brain in the process. Along with experiencing feelings of determination and consequent achievement, puzzles improve your memory, problem-solving skills, dopamine levels, and more. (I’d also argue that another benefit is simply the act and ability of committing…because you just so, so desperately want your kitchen table back.)
Curious to try one for yourself? If you’re looking for more screen-free activities, here are a few adult-friendly brain and board games to improve both your mind…and your mindfulness.
1. Naef Sphaera Maze Game
Price | $72.50
This hand-carved maze tests your agility and patience as you try to navigate tiny steel balls through its paths. Made of ethically sourced European maple wood and designed by Sarah Ahart and Bryanna Dering, this game won a student competition at Virginia Tech University.
2. Cat Pile
Price | $36
Like an animal-themed Jenga (but played in reverse), this game requires you to stack a set of wooden cats (or dogs, if that’s your pet preference) from bottom to top. Cat Pile is designed by Comma—a Taiwan brand launched to pass down crafts from the founders’ grandfather, the sculptor behind their family-owned woodcraft shop (with 90 years of history). The animals are made of Burma teak wood, and the creators oversee everything from initial wood selection to cut, quality, and final packaging.
3. Makemaki Sushi Game
Price | $35
This game challenges your dexterity, strategy, and speed as you race against your competitor to build—using only chopsticks—the compartmentalized sushi plate displayed on the card. Our favorite part? The chopsticks and wooden “ingredients” are crafted in Italy from FSC-certified beech and bamboo woods and then colored with nontoxic, water-based paints.
4. Frank Stella ‘Firuzabad’ Puzzle
Price | $20
In addition to challenging your problem-solving abilities, this puzzle feels like an optical illusion. Depicting ‘Firuzabad,’ a painting by renowned abstract artist Frank Stella, the 750 pieces comprise a colorful work of circles and stripes. They’re made of 90 percent recycled paper and are printed with nontoxic inks.
5. Fort Standard Balancing Blocks
Price | $48
These balancing blocks are made using scrap wood from Fort Standard’s (a home design studio) first project. The solid oak pieces are coated in water-based paint and packaged in screen-printed muslin bags. Multi-faceted and stone-sized, you can test your fine motor skills by balancing the blocks to create your own sculptures.
6. Writer’s Block Game
Price | $48
A classic peg game made of colored pencils, consider this dual-purpose project an opportunity to explore both your critical thinking and your creativity. The board features 15 holes and 14 standard-size pencils. To play, start with an empty spot, and jump in any direction, taking pegs along the way until there’s only one left.
7. Handmade Pucket
Price | $50
This table top-sized competition is based on a traditional French game and challenges its players to fling their pucks to their opponent’s side of the board via bungee-style cords. Sounds easy enough, right? The catch is you have to shoot the puck through a single cut-out in the divider. Crafted from Sheesham wood and handmade by India-based artisans working under fair-trade practices, the game is available on Uncommon Goods, an American Forests partner and founding B Corp.
8. Grimms Leonardo Sticks
Price | $65
These 100 sticks are made from lime wood and then colored with nontoxic water-based stains. Inspired by Leonardo DaVinci’s design for a self-supporting bridge, the game forces you to build constructions without nails, glue, or other fasteners. Its container box has a plant-based oil finish, too.
9. Four Point Moon Puzzle
Price | $24.95
Showcasing the clearest image of the Moon to date (courtesy of NASA), Four Point Moon’s 1,000-piece project is made from recycled materials. Its Toronto, Ontario-based producer rates the difficulty level a 4.5 out of 5.
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Danielle Cheesman was born and raised in New Jersey, where she lived until moving to Philadelphia to study journalism at Temple University. She has spent her years writing and developing editorial visions for music, art, and lifestyle brands. Now residing in Los Angeles, you can usually find her taking pictures, making playlists, or cuddling her pup. Say hi on Instagram!