Staff Blogger: Ellen Venema, Rhein Center Assistant Coordinator

Dreary January – month of oft-forgotten resolutions, month of reflection and planning, month of wind, snow and ice.

It appeals to the homebody in each of us. Short on light and enticing temperatures, it is a month where we often have to fight our hibernation instincts and more forcibly turn our attention to staying active, both physically and mentally.

This year, don’t let the winter blahs and blues drag you down. January is often recognized as Brain Teaser Month, and frequently stretching your mental muscles help to maintain sharpness. “Use it, or lose it” is a cliché for a reason.

There are countless types of activities that provide mental exercise. Riddles, crosswords, word searches, Sudoku puzzles, quizzes, trivia nights, TV game shows, card games, jigsaw puzzles, board games and more will entertain and challenge.

When the weather is at its most bitter and there’s nothing you’d rather do than cozy up inside with a warm drink, you can keep your brain active with a few of these mental calisthenics.

For the trivia buffs:

If you’re a fount of random knowledge, or would like to be, visit a trivia quiz website like to test your skills. Sporcle’s timed quizzes are largely user-submitted and un-verified, so they may not always be entirely correct, but along the way, you’ll absorb many random facts you never knew you wanted to know. They even have challenge badges you can earn to keep track of your accomplishments.

For the music lovers:

Grab a friend and a radio, iPod or CD player, and play Name That Tune. See how quickly you can identify each song or artist. Take it a step further by playing the song for a bit and then stopping mid-phrase. See if your partner can correctly recall the next line of lyrics.

For the numerically-inclined:

In a puzzle craze that has taken the world by storm in recent years, Sudoku offers number and logic-based challenges. Puzzles can be found in a wide variety of difficulty levels. There are also many twists on the theme, such as KenKen, which is a similarly-styled puzzle that adds a layer of mathematical equations. These puzzles can be found in your local supermarket or bookstore, online and on your phone’s app store.

For the strategy fanatics:

There are innumerable strategy games in existence. I was recently introduced to a great one named Tikal that has opponents competing for archeological dig sites and artifacts in the jungles of Central America. Stretch beyond the classics like Risk and Chess, and browse local or online stores for an endless supply of new worlds and challenges.

For the alphabet enthusiasts:

Why not try making your own puzzles to share or trade with others? Websites like offer puzzle creation engines that will turn out word searches, word scrambles, crosswords and more. Here are a couple Lakeside-themed puzzles to get you started.

In this word search, challenge yourself to find all of the correctly-spelled roadways of Lakeside.

All Roads Lead to Lakeside

For this word scramble, find a little friendly competition, and see who can unscramble the most Lakeside locales.

Lakeside Locales Word Scramble

What are your favorite ways to give your brain an entertaining workout?