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.
Kids, teens, and young adults are developing executie functioning skills up through the early twenties and even early thirties in order to accomplish daily life tasks. The key to building skills in attention, focus, prioritization, etc. is practice!
Actually trying and trying again when unsuccessful is a huge strategy when it comes to practicing executive functioning skills, but games and toys are a fun way to develop these skill.
Executive function games
There are some really fun and engaging games and toys for executive functioning skill development out there! We’ve broken down some of our top picks for building skills in distraction, planning, prioritization, self-control, and other areas of executive function.
What is Executive Functioning?
First, let’s briefly discus what executive function means…and how can you support this development through game play?
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.
Games and toys are a great way to target the development of executive functioning skills!
- Toys make practice fun.
- Games are engaging and it’s play…it takes the urgency off practicing essential skills.
- Playing a game challenges kids to try their best to accomplish a specific task.
- Executive functioning toys can break down target skills very specifically.
- RELATED READ: Sometimes executive function skills are to blame for sloppy handwriting.
Another related read is this blog post on executive function coaching, which can include executive functioning games as a recommendation for building skills in specific cognitive areas.
Toys to improve executive function
Affiliate links are included.
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.
Head Rush is a game that targets the development of mindfulness, empathy, and open communication. This is a great therapy game for helping kids develop communication tools with family and friends, especially when voicing their personal challenges and emotions.
This game would be perfect for family game night!
Visual Brainstorms Game can help kids address executive functioning abilities by addressing problem solving, prioritizing, reasoning, logic, and abstract thinking.
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 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.
The Original Memory Game is the one that has spurred a TON of varieties of matching, memory, and concentration.
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.
Look for toys that challenge the child 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.
It’s been found that there is a co-morbidity of 40-60% of ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder. Seek out games and toys that 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.
Look for games that provide 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.
Some top picks include:
These games and toys support the development of metacognition, task initiation, planning, prioritization, working memory, and more!
- Fine Motor Toys
- Gross Motor Toys
- Pencil Grasp Toys
- Toys for Reluctant Writers
- Toys for Spatial Awareness
- Toys for Visual Tracking
- Toys for Sensory Play
- Bilateral Coordination Toys
- Games for Executive Functioning Skills
- Toys and Tools to Improve Visual Perception
- Toys to Help with Scissors Skills
- Toys for Attention and Focus
Printable List of Toys for Executive Function
Want a printable copy of our therapist-recommended toys to support executive functioning skills?
As therapy professionals, we LOVE to recommend therapy toys that build skills! This toy list is done for you so you don’t need to recreate the wheel.
Your therapy caseload will love these EXECUTIVE FUNCTION toy recommendations. (There’s space on this handout for you to write in your own toy suggestions, to meet the client’s individual needs, too!)
Enter your email address into the form below. The OT Toolbox Member’s Club Members can access this handout inside the dashboard, under Educational Handouts. Just be sure to log into your account, first!
Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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