Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Marble Mania: Extreme Brain Gym

As Carrie in Sex and the City used to say at the beginning of an episode "Have you ever wondered why..." . Well, have you ever wondered why people will pay good money for subscription online programs to sharpen their brains as they age, like My Brain Trainer, while there are parents who would gladly let them hone their brain power by putting together complicated gear toys with over 300 pieces??

At Goodwill last Sunday, Sayer spied a box of Techno Gears Marble Mania Extreme. He was pretty excited; he found manual gears there once and each time we go he holds out hope he will find gears again. And this time he did, for only $2.99. Sayer loves gears AND marbles so what a find. We got home and low and behold it was brand new!! Each of the 330, individually numbered pieces were still sealed in bags. Lucky me.

I decided that putting this together would be like a Brain Gym session for adults. It would force me to use logic, follow instructions and focus on a spatial project, rather than words. This type of work is recommended in Carved in Sand, a book on midlife loss of memory and attention. And it has; just the act of repeatedly differentiating between five green connectors only millimeters apart in size has made me feel smarter already.

I'm still not sure, though, if I am working smarter, not harder. I have been making slow progress, with only about 200 more pieces to go. The problem, though, is that I can't do it with Sayer around because he doesn't want to wait until it is completed to use it, and I have other things to do during the time he is in school or asleep.

That's what made me think of the brain matching program. Midlife or elder folks out there who need to keep sharp - how about some real life practice rather than cross word puzzles, sudoku or My Brain Trainer? I bet there are many parents like me who are short of the time and patience to work through 45 page manuals for temperamental techno toys, or even construct a run-of-the-mill Hot Wheels track.

If only it were practical to start an online registry to link those who need to challenge their brains with those who's like to go out to lunch and return with a completely built toy ready for their kids to enjoy or break. But, alas, I imagine there would be logistical problems, as in "Honey, who is this gentleman with the magnifying glass and pipe?" "Oh, just the man who came over to build Johnnie's marble roller coaster."

At any rate, I am determined to finish this Marble Mania Extreme set on my own before school is out. I'm trying to think of it like learning to knit; the more you practice the easier it gets. Wish me luck, and remind me how much Sayer will love it when it is done. Just don't tell me that bargains are not always such bargains. I think I know why it ended up at Goodwill in such pristine condition!


ByJane said...

This DEFINITELY needs to be on http://midlifebloggers.com !

Sylvie said...

My mother has been doing crosswords almost all her life. And I don't mean easy crosswords, or even difficult ones, like the Sunday Times crosswords. I mean extraordinarily difficult crosswords with words that are almost never used in conversation; clues and themes that involve tortuous manipulations of sounds and letters. She's won several bottles of champagne for being among the successful solvers of these puzzles from British newspapers and magazines. And she's going strong at 87, absolutely alert, and mentally quick. This isn't the same thing as building a marble and gear machine, true, but it seems to be beyond verbal, in that while language is involved, it bears little relationship to language in use.

Carol said...


Your mom sounds great - I think too many folks once they get older just stop using and challenging their brain - but clearly not your mom!

Pam said...

Hello, as a small digression, I too, am a Goodwill lover. Our son likes to sit and rock, sometimes hard. I have had fantastic luck finding sturdy recliners/rockers for Geoffrey and as they start to wear out, they go to the backyard where he has a peaceful corner among some bushes and some mint (smells great). And it is great fun for this mom to spend time in the toy aisle trying out the push button toys to find the ones with the most interesting lights and sounds. If you see me there, don't expect a hello. I am too busy playing.