executive Function Games

executive function games

These executive function games are specifically selected to improve attention, organization, focus, working memory, and other executive functioning skills. Executive function is a set of cognitive skills that allows us to perform tasks. Use this list of games and toys to help kids build and establish executive functioning skills in the home, school, or community. These are great games to use in therapy to boost executive function for improved independence, safety, and task completion.

Executive function games

These games are fun ways to help kids improve executive function skills.

What is Executive Functioning?

There is much that can be read about executive function.  Essentially, executive functioning skills include the ability to perform a series of skills during functional tasks.  These include attention, impulse control, emotional control, flexible thinking, working memory, self-monitoring, planning and prioritizing, task initiation, and organization.  Looking at this skills set, executive function skills are essential for independence in most tasks.  

For the younger child, executive function abilities present themselves when they perform a multi-step task such as completing the parts of a morning routine.  Parental involvement and the prompting that comes with young kids are more involved.  When a child is able to perform a multi-step process with more independence, they may be able to prepare their cereal, clean up the dishes, brush their teeth, get dressed, gather items needed for the day, and leave the house even when a shoe is hidden under a table, the toothpaste spills, and the dishwasher is too full to add another bowl.

Executive functioning is initiating a task, adjusting to problems, negotiating obstacles, while organizing and prioritizing all of the steps and details.

Children can strengthen executive functioning skills in fun and creative ways.

RELATED READ: Sometimes executive function skills are to blame for sloppy handwriting.

Toys to improve executive function

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Take a look at these executive function games. There is something for every level.

This I Never Forget a Face Memory Game can help boost working memory and other executive function skills. The game focuses on details of faces and facial expressions, which can be a great way to focus on details and visual memory skills.  

 Executive function game for helping kids deal with distractions

Distraction is a game that can help boost working memory and recall with fun questions. This game would be perfect for family game night!  

 Visual Brainstorms game is great for improving executive functioning skills

Visual Brainstorms Game can help kids address executive functioning abilities by addressing problem solving, prioritizing, reasoning, logic, and abstract thinking.  

 Executive function game for helping kids with self control

Learning Self-Control in School is a game that addresses planning, attention, and consequences to behaviors.      The game Actions and Consequences can help kids learn that their actions have consequences! It’s a good game for younger kids.  

 What Do I Feel emotions game for kids

What Do I Feel is a game that allows kids to explore emotions and address emotional control as they respond to different scenarios.      

This Memory Chess Game is a fun game to address focus, working memory, and concentration.  It’s got a great fine motor component, too.  

 Original memory game

  The Original Memory Game is the one that has spurred a TON of varieties of matching, memory, and concentration.   

Try these games and toys to improve executive function skills

More activities for executive function

There are so many strategies to address attention in kids and activities that can help address attention needs. One tactic that can be a big help is analyzing precursors to behaviors related to attention and addressing underlying needs. 

The Attention and Sensory Workbook can be a way to do just that. 

The Attention and Sensory Workbook is a free printable resource for parents, teachers, and therapists. It is a printable workbook and includes so much information on the connection between attention and sensory needs. 

Here’s what you can find in the Attention and Sensory Workbook: 

  • Includes information on boosting attention through the senses
  • Discusses how sensory and learning are connected
  • Provides movement and sensory motor activity ideas
  • Includes workbook pages for creating movement and sensory strategies to improve attention

A little more about the Attention and Sensory Workbook: 

Sensory processing is the ability to register, screen, organize, and interpret information from our senses and the environment. This process allows us to filter out some unnecessary information so that we can attend to what is important. Kids with sensory challenges often time have difficulty with attention as a result.

FREE Attention & Sensory Workbook

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    It’s been found that there is a co-morbidity of 40-60% of ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder. This workbook is an actionable guide to help teachers, therapists, and parents to help kids boost attention and focus in the classroom by mastering sensory processing needs. 

    You will find information on the sensory system and how it impacts attention and learning. There are step-by-step strategies for improving focus, and sensory-based tips and tricks that will benefit the whole classroom.

    The workbook provides tactics to address attention and sensory processing as a combined strategy and overall function. There are charts for activities, forms for assessment of impact, workbook pages for accommodations, and sensory strategy forms.

    Free Executive Function Toy  

    Want to win a top-rated occupational therapy Executive function toy? One winner will receive an ! And, 5 winners will win a pack of resources from The OT Toolbox shop! Use this obstacle course kit to create tons of movement challenges to develop gross motor skills.


    Type your email address into the form below and hit the button. You will be entered to win a Distraction game! Want additional entries? Share our post on Instagram and tag a friend!

    Executive Function Toy Giveaway

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      **Entry begins on the date listed. Giveaway ends 12-8-21. Winners will be notified via email.

      1. Fine Motor Toys begins 11-26
      2. Gross Motor Toys begins 11-27
      3. Pencil Grasp Toys begins 11-28
      4. Toys for Reluctant Writers begins 11-29
      5. Toys for Spatial Awareness begins 11-30
      6. Toys for Visual Tracking begins 12-1
      7. Toys for Sensory Play begins 12-2
      8. Bilateral Coordination Toys begins 12-3
      9. Games for Executive Functioning Skills begins 12-4
      10. Toys and Tools to Improve Visual Perception begins 12-5
      11. Toys to Help with Scissors Skills begins 12-6
      12. Toys for Attention and Focus begins 12-7

      Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20 years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

      Christmas Maze Printable for in-hand Manipulation

      Free Christmas printable mazes

      This Christmas maze printable is a fun way to incorporate the holiday season while working on fine motor skills like in-hand manipulation. Add these free printable Christmas mazes for a therapy tool, or home activity that builds skills!

      Free printable Christmas mazes for building fine motor skills like in-hand manipulation and strength of the intrinsic muscles.

      Christmas Maze Printable

      Wait, what?  “Christmas” and “manipulation” should not be in the same sentence, right?  Well…….there is an awful lot of manipulation going on at the holidays in order for Santa to deliver the goods. 

      However, we are not referring to that type of manipulation. In hand manipulation is an important fine motor skill to develop the intrinsic muscles of the developing hand.  That sentence is a mouthful and sounds highly professional.  Be sure to slip that one into your conversation somewhere this month to sound super smart! 

      The term “manipulate” we are referring to when talking about “in hand manipulation” does not mean to control a situation or person, but rather; to treat or operate with or as if with the hands or by mechanical means especially in a skillful manner. Therefore in- hand manipulation refers to working the intrinsic hand muscles skillfully.

      Check out this article by Kelly DeYoung of the OT Perspective as she delves further into in-hand manipulation.

      Intrinsic hand muscles with a Christmas Maze Worksheet

      In simpler terms, there are many very tiny muscles inside the palm of the hand connecting to the fingers.  They are called intrinsic muscles because they are within the hand.  Great dexterity starts with the ability to move all of the muscles of the hand, rather than relying on more primitive motions using only the wrist or arm. 

      Now that we are clear that we are referring to skillfully working the small muscles of the hand, let us get on to the fun stuff! 

      Below, you can grab a set of FREE Christmas maze printables for in-hand manipulation as an excellent way to build these muscles while motivating your student at the same time.

      How to use these Christmas Maze Printables

      1. Have your student hold items such as coins, beads, bingo chips, mini marshmallows, in the palm of their hand. 
      2. Show them how to use their first finger to trace along the maze path. 
      3. At each circle have your student place one of their items onto the spot. 
      4. Continue tracing along the path placing objects until they reach the end of the maze.

      These Christmas and Candy Cane activities work on in-hand manipulation, finger/hand strength, dexterity, separation of sides of the hand, visual perceptual skills, following directions, and so much more all in one fun PDF printable.

      More ways to use these free printable christmas mazes

      Ways to modify or change this task:

      • Laminate the page to make it reusable.  Try coloring it first!
      • Print on different colored paper
      • Enlarge or shrink page to change the challenge
      • Have younger students use bingo markers on the dots as a fun game
      • Trace the line with a marker, then color the circles if handwriting is your objective
      • Color the picture after or before working on the in-hand manipulation task to add to the challenge
      • Have students pick up the coins one by one to get into their hand before dropping them one by one.  No raking grasp or sliding coins off of the table!

      Observe Skills when using the Christmas Mazes

      When working on this type of in-hand manipulation, there are several observations to be made. 

      • Can your student pick up the coins one at a time without using a raking grasp or sliding them off of the table?
      • How many items can your student hold at once without dropping some?
      • Can your student move the items from the palm of their hand to their finger tips to get them out, or do they drop the coins by opening their fingers?
      • Can your student continue to hold the coins while isolating one finger to continue the maze?
      • How many times do you need to repeat the directions so your student can follow them?
      • How many reminders does your student need while doing this activity?
      • What is your student’s frustration tolerance when they have to start over?
      • Is there any cheating or cutting corners going on? There always is.

      The best part of themed treatment planning is the ease of it.  It is streamlined and can be adapted for multiple levels of students.  If your students enjoyed the Christmas in-hand manipulation free printable, they will LOVE this Christmas Fine Motor Kit! If you order soon, you can get it while it is on sale.

      If you prefer a more “winter themed” treatment plan, the OT Toolbox has you covered.  They offer a Winter Fine Motor Kit crammed full of printable tasks to use to develop important fine motor skills.

      Writing all of these Christmas pages has me excited about trying some of these activities with my students.  I especially love this one, as in-hand manipulation tasks are one of my go to treatment plans for building hand muscles.  I just might order the Christmas Fine Motor Kit too.  With the holiday season as crazy as it is, I just don’t have time to create endless lesson plans and come up with novel ideas, when the OT Toolbox has me covered already.

      Free Christmas mazes

      Now to the fun stuff!  CHRISTMAS! These printables are a great way to incorporate meaningful relevant activities into the holiday season. As always, be mindful of your school’s policy on using specific Christmas activities that feature Santa.  Some districts have strict rules about how holidays can be celebrated.  Usually “winter theme” is a safe bet.  Candy canes, snowmen, snowflakes, hot cocoa, penguins, polar bears, etc are not usually frowned upon.

      Enter your email address into the form below and these printable Christmas mazes will be delivered. If you are a member of The OT Toolbox Member’s Club, you’ll find these printable mazes in your member’s dashboard area.

      FREE Christmas Maze Printables

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        Happy Holidays!

        Victoria Wood, OTR/L

        Victoria Wood

        Victoria Wood, OTR/L has been providing Occupational Therapy treatment in pediatrics for more than 25 years. She has practiced in hospital settings (inpatient, outpatient, NICU, PICU), school systems, and outpatient clinics in several states. She has treated hundreds of children with various sensory processing dysfunction in the areas of behavior, gross/fine motor skills, social skills and self-care. Ms. Wood has also been a featured speaker at seminars, webinars, and school staff development training. She is the author of Seeing your Home and Community with Sensory Eyes.

        *The term, “student” is used throughout this post for readability, however this information is relevant for all types of learners, patents, clients, children of all ages, etc. The term “they” is used instead of he/she to be inclusive.