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Pictionary is a fun game for the whole the family and for any age; there is even an edition designed for younger children. You can make up your own version of the game and add your own words suitable for different age groups and a variety of subjects. Hidden in such a simple and fun game are a complex range of mental and physical skills that are crucial to learning and thinking.

Our brains think with a combination of verbal and nonverbal thoughts. The verbal thoughts are processed at a maximum limit of about 250 words per minute. Non-verbal thoughts and concepts are usually images and pictures in the mind; the brain can process this information thousands of times faster than words, even complex ideas and concepts.

Here’s the science bit about the skills engaged during a game of Pictionary. The player must see and represent the word as image. The hand needs to move the pencil over the paper to re-create/draw the picture in the mind; the player is communicating a thought through the power of a drawing; the other players then turn that drawing into a word or phrase.

Converting the word into an image in the mind requires visualisation, memory, manipulation of mental images and organisation of thoughts. All of these skills are essential when reading and understanding the written word. The act of drawing requires hand-eye coordination and using the vision (and mind) to direct the body (visual motor integration). Other skills include visual communication and my favourite: creative thinking and original thought which is a highly valuable skill for both learning and for life!

You never know, you may even discover the next Leonardo Di Vinci right under your nose!


Bhavin Shah (BSc Optom (hons), MCOptom) is a Behavioural Optometrist at Central Vision Opticians in Greater London. Find out more about his work at, 020 8343 1122,