Kids love games! That’s why using games to help executive functioning skills is such a powerful method for development of skills like attention, prioritization, planning, and impulse control. Read on to find suggested strategy games and planning games for executive function that kids will love while improving the brain skills they need.
Play Games FOr Executive Function Development
One of the best parts about working on EF skills is that they can be addressed through almost ANY activity! However, that’s also why they are so important, because almost any occupation requires EF skills. There are many games out there that improve executive function and the skills that make up this cognitive super power. Here, we’re talking about a few recommended strategy games kids will enjoy.
Strategy Games for Executive Function
Strategy games are one of many fun ways to improve executive functioning (EF) skills! The best part about these games are that children and teens often do not even realize that they are developing a challenging skill set. Try some of these fun and engaging games to improve your clients’ executive functioning skills.
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Ticket to Ride (ages 8+, up to 5 players):
Ticket to Ride is a popular game with many versions based on geographic locations. The original is based on a United States/Canada map. The point of the game is to complete a series of “routes” without having your opponent(s) block your path, all while being the first to run out of train figures. Players earn points for laying down track toward completing their routes. There are multiple rule intricacies that require working memory, along with the need to plan and predict your opponents’ moves!
Magic Labyrinth (ages 6+, 2-4 players):
Magic Labyrinth is a fantastic fantasy-based game. Players take on the role of being magicians who are searching for treasure within a labyrinth. However, just like every good strategy game, there is a twist! The labyrinth cannot be seen. If magicians bump into the obscured walls, their magnet falls off and they are required to return to their starting corner. This requires planning skills, along with working memory as to where the walls are placed. The walls are moveable, allowing for endless fun, since players will not be able to permanently memorize the location of walls in between games!
Jump In’ (ages 7+, 1 player):
Jump In’ is a cool 1-player game from Smart Games. Smart Games has many options for 1-player strategy games starting in preschool all the way up to games for adults. Games come with a challenge book with several levels of difficulty. The goal of Jump In’ is to get all of the rabbits into their holes without getting caught by the fox! Jump In’ primarily requires the player to use planning and problem-solving skills.
Cribbage (recommended 7+, 2-3 players):
Cribbage is a classic card/board game requiring impulse control, working memory, monitoring, and more! While there is not a formal minimum age for cribbage, players should be familiar with doing addition up to 31 in their head if playing without an adult to support. There are many rule intricacies in cribbage, requiring players to constantly be mindful of the points that they earned and could potentially give to others by playing their cards. The goal of cribbage is to be the first player to get your pin to the finish line.
Codenames (ages 10+, 2-8 players):
Codenames is a fantastic game for perspective-taking, monitoring, working memory, planning, and impulse control. The makers of Codenames list a recommended age of 14, but board and strategy game enthusiasts feel that ages 10+ is a more realistic age minimum. The goal of Codenames is to “contact” all your undercover agents before the other team through giving a series of one-word clues. However, as always, there is a catch! If your team guesses the assassin card, you instantly lose the game!
Using Games as a Fun Way to Improve Executive Functioning
Ultimately, strategy games are a fantastic way to improve executive functioning in a fun, age-appropriate way! While this is just a sampling of a few favorites, there are many more available. Have fun, and good luck!
This post was written by contributing author, Emily Skaletski, MOT, OTR/L is a pediatric occupational therapist in the Madison, WI area. Emily participated in the Pennsylvania Occupational Therapy Association’s Emerging Leaders Program (2016), earned her level 1 digital badge in autism from the American Occupational Therapy Association (2017), received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Chatham University (2018), and was appointed the South-Central District Co-Chair of the Wisconsin Occupational Therapy Association (2019). Emily has presented at both state and national conferences and is passionate about professional development. While trained as a generalist, Emily particularly enjoys working with clients with autism spectrum disorder and challenges related to executive functioning skills.