In Ming China there were four great cultural pursuits (if I have the names right) – weiqi (go), qin (music, the zither), calligraphy, painting. The BM exhibition has a zither, as early as 13th century, as I recall.
The Romans had the trivium (grammar, logic and rhetoric) and quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, music, astronomy), together making up the seven liberal arts.
Both exclude the practical arts – architecture, medicine and in China especially, military skills, the art of war. The Ming emperors had, I read, up to a million soldiers at their disposal.
The four cultural pursuits and the seven liberal arts are radically different and yet both focus on improving the mind. Today it’s all about English and maths, but China recognised the importance of games and music, and classical Rome the benefits of logic and rhetoric.
Reminders that there are other modes of learning. Encouraging music and writing and painting at an early age, as creative not rote exercises, would be a wonder, and a wide benefit.
Thinking games, what of computer games? The challenge is there of course, and the learning, but it’s solitaire against chess, skills against life experience, a MOOQ against a tutorial or a Q and A at the end of a lecture. We need it person-to-person, better still, to look into the whites of another’s eyes.