Engaging Executive Functioning Activities

Executive functioning activities can be motivating and meaningful when they use the interests of the child.

Executive functioning activities are tools to build skills in attention, working memory, self-control, and cognitive flexibility. But these brain tasks can be HARD for some kids. So, when enhancing executive function is a real challenge, how can you make executive functioning activities meaningful and engaging? In a previous post, we talked about the use of strategy games as a method to improve executive functioning (EF) skills. Executive functioning games can be one means of engaging individuals in processing and self-reflection. While games are a great tool that children and teens can participate in both in and out of the clinic, there are many other everyday activities to promote EF skill development! Here are some more engaging ways to improve executive functioning skills.

Executive functioning activities can be motivating and meaningful when they use the interests of the child.

Executive Functioning ActivitiesThat Work

Executive functioning skills are an important client factor contributing to successful participation in daily occupations. EF is currently a buzzword, but it isn’t a new idea. Creating a EF activities that are personalized and based on interests is an effective strategy for ensuring participation. If the child has a deep interest in specific themes or activities based on their personal preferences, executive function practice and skill work becomes more fun as opposed to “work”.

Using the interests of the child as a motivator and as a scheduler can have great results. 

Check out a few ways that you can help children and teens develop their EF skills!

Related, using a model of delivery that works for the individual is important. For some, executive function coaching is a way to support specific needs through a coaching model.

Cooking for Executive Functioning Skill Development

Cooking is a great way to work on executive functioning with a treat at the end! Cooking requires many executive functioning skills. Kids need to use impulse control to complete one step at a time and pace themselves, avoid ingesting raw ingredients or eating all of their hard work, as well as prevent injury with sharp or hot tools.

They also need to use working memory to recall what ingredients they need after looking at a recipe, as well as recalling the quantity of that ingredient. Here is information and strategies to teach direction following with cooking activities.

Crafts and Projects for Executive Functioning Skill Development

Crafts for kids and projects are another great way to work on executive functioning skills. Does your client have a special interest in the U.S. Presidents? Have them create a board game related to this interest! They will need to keep track of their materials, manage their time appropriately, and consider the perspectives of others who might play their game!

Executive Functioning and Gross Motor Activities

Gross motor activities and executive functioning activities can go hand in hand. Almost any activity can be adapted to integrate gross motor play! In a large room, a child could look at a list of items, then race to the other side of the room on their scooter to find an object, just like “I Spy” books and games! Many kids love to make obstacle courses, allowing for the development of initiation (getting started on building, instead of making grand plans and running out of time to make the course), impulse control (try changing the rules on them halfway through! “No touching red pieces!”), and metacognition (have them evaluate what went well, what did not go as well, and what they would change).

Executive Functioning and Daily Routines

Daily routines are a natural opportunity for the development of executive functioning skills. However, this also goes the other direction, because executive functioning is critical for independence in daily routines. Have clients create visuals to support their attention and sequencing of multiple step routines. If a child takes a significant amount of time to complete their routine, have a race to see who can get ready the fastest!

Executive Functioning and Technology

Some kids are highly motivated by apps and technology. These interests can be used as part of therapy intervention or as a reward. Here are occupational therapy apps which contain some free options to address executive functioning skills. Here are Alexa skills for therapy that can be used to work on executive functioning and other areas.

It’s all about executive FUNctioning!

Try a few of these activity ideas to integrate executive functioning skill development in an enjoyable, approachable way! These are engaging and fun ways to build executive functioning skills through meaningful strategies. They work for kids, and adults. The most best thing is that building mental skills can be meaningful and fun!

Looking for more motivating executive functioning activities? Try the Impulse Control Journal. It’s a fun and creative way to journal through skills…impulse control is covered, but also working memory, attention, organization, planning, prioritization, flexible thought, and more.

Impulse Control Journal the OT Toolbox

Address the habits, mindset, routines, and strategies to address impulse control in kids.  More about the Impulse Control Journal:

  • 30 Drawing Journal Pages to reflect and pinpoint individual strategies 
  • 28 Journal Lists so kids can write quick checklists regarding strengths, qualities, supports, areas of need, and insights 
  • 8 Journal worksheets to pinpoint coping skills, feelings, emotions, and strategies that work for the individual
  • Daily and Weekly tracking sheets for keeping track of tasks and goals 
  • Mindset,Vision, and Habit pages for helping kids make an impact 
  • Self-evaluation sheets to self-reflect and identify when inhibition is hard and what choices look like 
  • Daily tracker pages so your child can keep track of their day 
  • Task lists to monitor chores and daily tasks so it gets done everyday  
  • Journal pages to help improve new habits  
  • Charts and guides for monitoring impulse control so your child can improve their self-confidence
  • MORE!  

Click here to read more about the Impulse Control Journal and to add this resource to your therapy toolbox.

 How to Teach Kids Impulse Control

What is Modulation?

Easy Ways to Improve Impulse Control

When Executive Function Skills Impair Handwriting

Handwriting and executive functioning skills are connected in many ways. Here are tips and strategies to improve executive function skills and writing.

Handwriting is a complex task.  To write a sentence, a child needs to process information, recall important information, plan what he wants to write, initiate the writing task, perform the motor tasks to move the pencil to form letters, organize motor output on the page, manage paper/posture/pencil mechanics, realize errors, and be flexible enough to accept and correct mistakes. Executive functioning skills can impact legible handwriting and a few tactics can support this area of need.

All of these “parts” of handwriting might sound familiar to the parent, teacher, or therapist of a child with executive function defects.  Executive function is our ability to “get things done”.  It is a set of skills that allow us to organize information, plan, learn, multi-task, remember things, prioritize, pay attention, and act on information.

Handwriting and executive functioning skills are connected in many ways. Here are tips and strategies to improve executive function skills and writing.

Handwriting for a child with executive functioning problems can be quite challenging. Handwriting requires visual perception, sensory processing, cognitive components, motoric output, awareness of mistakes, and the ability to correct them just to complete written work.

Now, image asking a child with executive function difficulties to write a 5 sentence writing prompt.  After an 8 hour day of school.  In the environment that the child feels most comfortable to exhibit behaviors (home with his loved ones)…it can be a messy scenario leading to a homework breakdown.

Handwriting and executive functions


What is Executive Functioning?

One issue that may be causing a child to write well at school and produce completely illegible or totally sloppy written work at home is a deficit in executive functioning skills.

Kids who have trouble managing their executive functioning skills might have trouble with learning, organization, task completion, getting homework done, not losing their essential items, remembering to take their lunch box home each day, and so many other everyday tasks. Executive functioning is a set of mental skills that play a huge part in our daily tasks.

These essential mental tasks include:

This post contains affiliate links.

Executive Functioning Skills Checklist

 So, when it comes to difficulties in the areas listed above, there are certain ways that we see those struggles come to life. In the child with executive functioning disorder or challenges in any one area of executive functioning, it can be helpful to have an executive functioning skills checklist, or list of ways that EF impacts writing. Here are some of the ways that you may see executive function impact writing.
Executive functioning skills and handwriting with tips for helping kids at home and in the classroom


Handwriting and Executive Function Skills

When asked to complete written work, a lack of executive functions or a inability to utilize executive functioning skills may occur.  The child may show resistance to the writing topic, trouble initiating, and difficulties with written work output.  Here are signs of executive function problems in handwriting:
  • Difficulty generating ideas
  • Trouble articulating ideas
  • Problems putting their ideas onto paper
  • Difficulty forming the letters to produce written text
  • Simple or minimized written output despite verbally responding to writing prompts
  • Inappropriate pencil grasp
  • Trouble initiating writing prompt
  • Difficulty organizing work space
  • Crumbled paper
  • Tearing paper when writing or erasing
  • Poor letter formation
  • Difficulty with line and spatial awareness on the paper
  • Slow writing speed
  • Complaints of mechanics of writing (pencil needs sharpened, need better eraser, uncomfortable seat)
  • Slow writing speed
  • Written work does not answer the question or answers only part of the question despite verbally stating a full response.
  • Repeats self in written work (in an open ended writing prompt type of task)
Tips and tricks for helping kids with executive functioning problems with handwriting

How to help kids improve executive functioning skills to improve handwriting and homework

  • Break down writing tasks. Separate an assignment into smaller parts. 
  • Make a plan. Visual cues are key. Use a highlighter and numbers to create a “to-do” list.
  • Make short one step tasks and determine how long each should last.
  • Consistency. Complete written work and homework in a specific place.
  • Organized work space. Try these tips for organized homework.
  • Materials in place. Limit the options for pencils/erasers.
  • Use a timer to work on small steps at a time.
  • Provide guidelines for written work.
  • Mark off each task as it is completed.
  • Behavioral chart for homework completion.
  • Reward system with actionable rewards: Instead of a toy or sticker, a child can choose to earn earn time to stay up 15 minutes later on Friday, choose the family’s dessert for one day, or pick what to watch for family movie night.
  • Dictation: Child dictates what he wants to write and parent/teacher/aide/another student completes the writing portion.
  • Try typing vs. written work.
  • Visual checklist for mechanics: Capitalization, punctuation, complete sentences, grammar, spelling, line awareness, spacing, letter formation.
This post is part of our Easy Quick Fixes to Better Handwriting series. Be sure to check out all of the easy handwriting tips in this month’s series and stop back often to see them all.  


How to Improve Handwriting and Executive Function

One way to support students is through executive function coaching as a way to address specific needs using a coaching model.

One way to work on the handwriting issues that we commonly see, along with the executive functioning struggles is to combine these. Using checklists, or by drawing mind maps, and using visual cues, the child with executive functioning difficulties to “see” the big picture of what they need to accomplish.

The Impulse Control Journal does just that. It is a printable journal that kids (and teens or adults) can use to figure out what’s going on with attention, organization, planning, prioritization, and other mental skills. It can help them with areas like habits so they are able to accomplish the everyday tasks like planning out a chore or an assignment.

The Impulse Control Journal breaks down executive functioning…but it does it in easy and fun ways and doesn’t make the process overly distracting or overwhelming. Just pull out or print off the pages you need and use them over and over again. The best thing I love about this journal is the fact that the user is totally involved in the process. It’s not just making plans for the child (or teen/individual), but they have a real say in their situation and the ways to work on certain areas.

They are truly involved in the process of working on executive functioning skills.

And, the journal offers a way to work on handwriting with short lists, check boxes, mind maps, and more. So, by addressing the executive functioning skills and handwriting together, the process provides a real opportunity for change.

Impulse Control Journal the OT Toolbox

Books About Executive Functioning

books to teach executive functioning skills

Reading is a great life-long occupation! Did you know that there are books on executive functioning for all ages? Check out this list for your next read, while teaching kids about executive functioning skills…and maybe learning a thing or two yourself!

Books on Executive Functioning for All Ages

Books are an accessible and approachable learning opportunity for many skills, including executive functioning! From children’s books, to workbooks geared to teens, to evidence-filled books for adults, there is a plethora of option to meet your needs. 

Amazon affiliate links are included in this post.

books to teach executive functioning skills

Books on Executive Functioning for Ages 4-10

Experts support the use of books to support child development in social and emotional health, which is highly interconnected to executive functioning. Children in the early school-age range benefit from intentional introduction to these concepts. Many books geared toward this age lend themselves to activities to further solidify their concepts. 

Executive function books for kids

Here are a few favorites for this age range! 

  • The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds
  • Books by Julia Cook, including It’s Hard to be a VERB!, -Difficulty with impulse control can look like wiggles, getting out of one’s seat, fidgeting, or constantly moving. This is a great book on managing impulses.
  • My Mouth is a Volcano! – A great book on impulse control, managing thoughts and words, and teaching the skill of listening and waiting for one’s turn to speak.
  • Planning Isn’t My Priority…and Making Priorities Isn’t in My Plans!Planning, prioritizing, and thinking ahead can be hard. This book teaches kids about making choices, prioritizing, and using one’s strengths and weaknesses creatively to build these essential executive functioning skills.
  • I Can’t Find My Watchamacallit!– Some kids are more organized than others. This books highlights unique skills and helps kids understand, develop, and apply organization skills.

These books can make reading fun for even the most hesitant reader!

Books on Executive Functioning for Ages 11-18

This is a fun (and critical) age range for executive functioning development! Self-awareness is beginning to develop further. These books emphasize skill development in this area to promote participation in everyday activities!

Executive function books for teens

Check out these books for preteens and teens:

Books on Executive Functioning for Ages 18+

Whether an individual struggling with the demands of executive functioning in everyday life, a parent, or a professional, there are plenty of books for adults to learn more about executive functioning! Some are even available as audiobooks, if you are looking to develop the skill of shifting and divided attention by multitasking! 

In this list, you are bound to find some new favorites! Enjoy learning more about the brain. After all, that in itself is an executive function!

Impulse Control Journal the OT Toolbox

Kids of all ages (including adults) can use The Impulse Control Journal to work on self-regulation, self-control, planning, prioritization, and executive functioning skills in every day tasks. These hands-on journaling sheets are perfect for all ages. Grab the Impulse Control Journal here.

How to Improve Executive Function

Executive functioning resources
Here, you will find a variety of information on executive functioning. These are resources curated from around the internet designed to improve executive function. I wanted to create a space that has information on executive functioning skills that can be accessed all in one place. It is my hope that this space is one where you can find strategies and tools for addressing problems with attention, organization, task initiation, planning, prioritization, and many other mental skills that cause so many individuals to struggle. Use these tools, tips, and information to work on executive functioning by starting at the beginning!


Wondering how to improve executive function? Here are 20 online resources for understanding executive functioning skills.
Improve executive function skills in kids or adults with these strategies and tips.

If you’ve noticed anything about The OT Toolbox, it may be that I love to share a lot of tools and resources that can help parents, teachers, and of course, occupational therapists. The information in this post are resources and tools that I share on one of our Facebook pages, Executive Functioning Toolbox. Some readers who do not have access to Facebook have asked for access to this collection of information. It’s my hope that THIS can be an executive function toolbox!

Here are strategies to help the adult with executive function disorder. Many of these tips and strategies are great for teens as well.

How to Improve Executive Function

Free email course on executive functioning skills
1. First, you may want to sign up for our free Executive Functioning Skills Email Course, if you haven’t already. Over the course of 5 days, we’ll cover everything from what executive function means, to the “why” behind actions, and things that may be occurring beneath the surface in the individual with executive function disorder or simply challenges with one or more of the mental skills. You’ll also get great tips and strategies to work on executive functioning skills, too. 
Read more about what you’ll learn and sign up for the free executive functioning course here.
Use these resources to improve executive function in kids and adults.

More information and tools you can use to improve executive function:

2. There are many benefits to having kids with attention or learning challenges participate in martial arts. Here’s why martial arts can help kids with attention problems
3. Inhibition is a big part of executive functioning skills that play into many other EF skill areas like planning, prioritization, task initiation, perseverance, and more. Here are some Impulse Control Strategies.
4. Here is a self-test to help determine if you or someone else has an executive function disorder. 
5. Foresight, or the ability to think ahead, is a big part of executive functioning. This skill works together with working memory, and other skills to allow us to problem solve, plan, and prioritize tasks. Here is more on foresight and activities and games to improve foresight.
6. “Executive function and self-regulation skills are the mental processes that enable us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully. Just as an air traffic control system at a busy airport safely manages the arrivals and departures of many aircraft on multiple runways, the brain needs this skill set to filter distractions, prioritize tasks, set and achieve goals, and control impulses.” Here is more information on executive function and self-regulation.
7. Here are 9 Best Apps and Sites to Improve Executive Function– These can be a helpful tool for so many!
8. Looking to add items to your child’s holiday gift list that serve a purpose? Keep these games in mind when choosing gifts for a child who struggles with executive functioning skills. 
9. An introduction to working memory: “Compared to short-term memory, working memory plays a more influential role in students’ academic performance. This is because many academic tasks involve multiple steps with intermediate solutions, and students need to remember those intermediate solutions as they proceed through the tasks. Examples of working memory tasks could include holding a person’s address in mind while listening to instructions about how to get there, or listening to a sequence of events in a story while trying to understand what the story means. In mathematics, a working memory task could involve keeping a formula in mind while at the same time using the formula to solve a math problem.”
10. Understanding what it’s like to have executive function disorder: “It only took three-and-a-half minutes of simulated executive functioning issues to bring me to tears of frustration. It still makes me panicky to think about it.”
11. This site has much information, resources, articles, and tools for addressing executive functioning skills and needs in these mental skill areas.
12. Does a lack of executive function explain why some kids fall way behind in school? This report discusses the idea.
13. Here is general info on EF skills, anatomy of executive functioning, and a quick list of instruments used to assess executive behavior.
14. What is executive function disorder, and how is it different than ADHD? Here is a nice explanation.
15. Here is an assessment of Sensory Processing and Executive Functions in Childhood..
16. Want to understand more? This article is informative: “There’s no diagnosis called executive function disorder. You won’t find it in the DSM-5, the manual clinicians use to diagnose conditions. But you can still identify weaknesses in executive function by having your child evaluated.
Executive function is complex, so it can be tricky to evaluate. But there are specific tests that look at a wide range of skills that are involved in executive function. These skills include…”
17. Wondering how executive functioning skills develop through childhood?
18. Need ideas to work on  EF skills? Here are a few completely free and no-prep games that build executive functioning skills: “Parents who want to stimulate their children’s brain development often focus on things like early reading, flashcards and language tapes. But a growing body of research suggests that playing certain kinds of childhood games may be the best way to increase a child’s ability to do well in school. Variations on games like Freeze Tag and Simon Says require relatively high
levels of executive function, testing a child’s ability to pay attention, remember rules and exhibit self ­control — qualities that also predict academic success.”
19. Need creative ways to address executive function weaknesses? This bundle of card games are helpful for improving working memory, attention to detail, response inhibition, sustained attention and mental shifting.Get a set here (affiliate link).


20. Looking for more information on executive functioning skills? Here is all of the executive functioning skills items on this website that can help.

21. Finally, here are more executive function resources.

Stay tuned for more tools being added to this page all the time.

These executive function resources can help improve skills like working memory, attention, and other executive functioning skills.


Know a child who struggles with impulse control, attention, working memory or other executive functions?Let’s talk about what’s going on behind those impulses!
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    Executive Functioning Skills- Teach Planning and Prioritization

    Planning and prioritization activities

    We’ve been talking a lot about executive functioning skills here on The OT Toolbox recently. There’s a reason why: so many kids struggle with executive function disorder or just are challenged by sills that make up the executive functions. Planning and prioritizing tasks is a big concern for many kids who struggle. These skill areas are essential for initiating tasks and following through with projects.

    Use these tips and strategies to teach planning skills and prioritization skills, two executive functioning skills needed for everyday tasks in the classroom and home.

    How to teach Planning and Prioritization

    We know the feeling of being stuck on a big project. It can be overwhelming when we are presented with a task so immense that we spin our wheels with fixing problems. Maybe a big house remodel or other multi-step project comes to mind. For our kids with executive functioning challenges, the smallest project or task can be overwhelming. Planning and prioritization are a big part of that.

    In fact, many adults struggle with the skills of planning and prioritization, too. Recently, I’ve had many readers reach out in response to our free executive functioning skills email course. Several readers have indicated that much of the information applies to themselves (and adults) or other adults they know. Planning and prioritization are skills that can be difficult to establish well into adulthood. For the adult with executive functioning difficulties, these are common concerns and challenges. The information below can be a help to children, teens, and even adults.  

    Here are strategies to help the adult with executive function disorder. Many of these tips and strategies are great for teens as well. 

    planning and prioritization Problems

    You’ve probably seen the child that:

    • Can’t get started on homework
    • Has trouble figuring out how to start a big assignment like a book report
    • Starts a project but then never finishes because they struggle with the steps
    • Has difficulty remembering and completing all of the steps to when getting dressed and ready for the day
    • Can’t figure out the most important assignments to complete first
    • Has trouble when there are more than a few items on a “to-do” list
    • Can’t sequence a project visually or verbally
    • Has trouble looking at the “big picture”
    • Can’t figure out how to find the important items when cleaning out a messy desk
    • Overwhelmed when planning out the day

    The activities listed below can help with the executive functioning skills of planning and prioritization:

    Prioritization is another complex executive functioning skill that, when achieved, provides kids with the ability to achieve goals. Deciding on steps of a process and thinking through that process to work toward the most important tasks is a difficult skill for many kids.

    When prioritization is difficult for a person, getting every day tasks like getting dressed, completing homework, or multi-step tasks can be nearly impossible.

    Prioritization allows us to make decisions about what is important so we can know what to focus on and what’s not as important. Being able to discern tasks that are necessary from those that we should do is crucial.

    Prioritization is a critical skill to have, but can take some practice to achieve. Try the activities listed below to support development of this skill.

    Activities to Teach Prioritization

    Provide opportunities to practice prioritizing by planning simple tasks. Talk about how to build a snowman, how to make a bed, and other tasks they are familiar with.

    Discuss the most important steps of tasks. What must be done before any other step can be done.

    Show kids photos, and ask for their opinions about what they found to be the most important detail or big idea.

    Make to-do lists to help kids plan and prioritize. Once you have everything written down, then rank tasks in order of importance.

    Make a list of assignments with due dates. Highlight the things that must be done first.

    Create a calendar and schedule.

    Create a daily task list. Check off items as they are completed.

    Try easy projects. If something seems to “big”, break it down into smaller steps. 

    How to Teach Planning

    Planning is an executive functioning skill that refers to the ability to create a plan or a roadmap to reach a goal. Completing tasks requires the ability to have a mental plan in place so that things get done.

    Planning and prioritization are EF skills that are closely related. Additionally, skills like foresight, working memory, and organization enable successful planning.

    Planning can be a stumbling block for many with executive functioning challenges. Try the activities below to support the ability to plan out tasks:

    Draw out plans. The drawing prompts in the Impulse Control Journal can be a great exercise in using drawing to work on real skills and goals with kids.

    Teach kids to create a drawing mind map to plan out a multiple step project.

    Teach kids to create lists. Using sticky notes can make planning easier and allow kids to physically move tasks to a “done” pile as they are completed.

    Plan a simple task like making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Ask kids to write out the steps then check them off as they are completed.

    Take planning and prioritization a step farther

    Want to really take executive function skills like planning and prioritization to the next level of success? The Impulse Control Journal is your guide to addressing the underlying skills that play into trouble with planning and prioritization. 

    The journal is an 80 page collection of worksheets and prompts to discover what’s really going on behind executive functioning skills like planning, organization, prioritization, working memory, and of course, impulse control. 

    While the guide was developed for students of all ages, this printable workbook is perfect for adults, too. It can help you discover strategies that make a real impact for all of the skills needed to get things done. 

    Here’s the thing; Everyone is SO different when it comes to struggles related to executive functioning and everyone’s interests, needs, challenges, strengths, and weaknesses are different too. All of these areas play into the challenges we see on the surface. And, this is where the Impulse Control Journal really hits those strengths, weaknesses, and challenges where it matters…in creating a plan that really works for kids of all ages (and adults, too!)

    Check out the Impulse Control Journal, and grab it before the end of February, because you’ll get a bonus packet of Coping Cards while the journal is at it’s lowest price. 

    The Impulse Control Journal has been totally revamped to include 79 pages of tools to address the habits, mindset, routines, and strategies to address impulse control in kids. 
    More about the Impulse Control Journal:
    • 30 Drawing Journal Pages to reflect and pinpoint individual strategies 
    • 28 Journal Lists so kids can write quick checklists regarding strengths, qualities, supports, areas of need, and insights 
    • 8 Journaling worksheets to pinpoint coping skills, feelings, emotions, and strategies that work for the individual 
    • Daily and Weekly tracking sheets for keeping track of tasks and goals 
    • Mindset, Vision, and Habit pages for helping kids make an impact
    • Self-evaluation sheets to self-reflect and identify when inhibition is hard and what choices look like 
    • Daily tracker pages so your child can keep track of their day 
    • Task lists to monitor chores and daily tasks so it gets done everyday  
    • Journal pages to help improve new habits  
    • Charts and guides for monitoring impulse control so your child can improve their self confidence
    • Strategy journal pages to help kids use self-reflection and self-regulation so they can succeed at home and in the classroom  
    • Goal sheets for setting goals and working to meet those goals while improving persistence  
    • Tools for improving mindset to help kids create a set of coping strategies that work for their needs  
    This is a HUGE digital resource that you can print to use over and over again.  


    Fun Mindfulness Activities

    Here, you will find fun mindfulness activities to help kids with creative mindfulness exercises that can help kids feel better, reduce stress, address anxiety, and have a greater awareness of their body and mind. Mindfulness activities for kids can be used as a self-regulation tool or a coping strategy. The sky’s the limit!

    Looking for more ways to teach mindfulness? Here are winter themed mindfulness activities that kids will love. 

    These FUN Mindfulness activities are helpful self-regulation tools for kids.


    Fun Mindfulness Activities

    First, let’s talk about what mindfulness means.

    Mindfulness activities for kids can help kids with attention coping, learning, self-regulation, and more!

    What is mindfulness?

    Mindfulness is the ability to bring your attention to the events happening in the moment. It allows us to carefully observe our thoughts and feeling, to develop a sense of self awareness.  Mindfulness can be done anywhere. It does not require special equipment. It can be as easy as sitting and thinking or visualizing a place in your mind.

    Who is mindfulness good for?

    Mindfulness is great for any age, including kids. School can be a very overwhelming experience with expectations, rules, noises, crowds. Being able to do fun mindfulness activities can be a good way for children to self-regulate, focus and feel better emotionally and physically. Learning how to self-regulate (being able to manage your own emotions) is an important skill to learn at a young age.

    Mindfulness is a helpful tool in addressing executive functioning skills needs in kids.


    Mindfulness activities for kids

    Listed below are some easy, beginning mindfulness activities to try with kids.
    Looking for more ideas? Here are some mindfulness videos on YouTube.

    Mindfulness Activity #1: Mindful Breathing- 

    Taking deep breaths is so important in relaxation it brings awareness to your body. There are many different ways to teach kids to take deep breaths and then blow out. Using a pinwheel, blowing bubbles, blowing out candles, picturing a balloon opening and closing with breath. Even having your child breath in while you count to 5 and then breath out.

    Mindfulness Activity #2: Body Scan- 

    Have your child lay on his/her back. Tell them to tense up all muscles from head to toe and hold for 10-15 seconds. Then have them release and relax, ask them how they feel. This exercise helps kids to recognize how their body is feeling in a tense vs. Calm state.

    Mindfulness Activity #3: Visualization or Guided Imagery–

    This is a relaxation technique that is used to promote positive mental images. You can find guided imagery scripts online, pertaining to many different subjects from nature to emotions. Start by having your child close their eyes, while seated or lying down. Slowly read the script and have them visualize the image in their minds, then have them draw a picture of that place and keep it in their desk or at home as a reference to a calm place for them.

    Mindfulness Activity #4: Take a Walk- 

    Being outside and taking a walk is a great way for your child to be present in the moment. Point out the different sounds heard from birds chirping to leaves rustling. Notice the smell of the fresh cut grass or flowers. Feel the different textures of sand and rocks. Notice the sun, wind and clouds. Bring a blanket and lay on the grass, look up at the trees, look at the clouds.   Walk over to a pound and listen for frogs, look for fish and throw rocks in to make a splash.

    Mindfulness Activity # 5: Stretching/Yoga- 

    Taking deep breaths and stretching can be a very calming and teaches you to be aware of how your body is feeling.  Turn the lights down, put on relaxing music and help guide your child through bedtime relaxation stretches for kids.

    Use these mindfulness strategies for kids as a coping strategy, to help with attention in the classroom, to impact learning, or to address self-regulation needs. What’s very cool is that each awareness activity could be themed to fit classroom or homeschool lessons, the curriculum, or seasons. Make these mindfulness activities fit the needs of your classroom, clients, and kids!

    Mindfulness is a coping strategy used in The Impulse Control Journal.

    The Impulse control journal is a printable journal for kids that helps them to identify goals, assess successes, and address areas of needs. The Impulse Control Journal is a printable packet of sheets that help kids with impulse control needs.

    Read more about The Impulse Control Journal HERE.

    The Impulse Control Journal has been totally revamped to include 79 pages of tools to address the habits, mindst, routines, and strategies to address impulse control in kids.

    More about the Impulse Control Journal:

    • 30 Drawing Journal Pages to reflect and pinpoint individual strategies
    • 28 Journal Lists so kids can write quick checklists regarding strengths, qualities, supports, areas of need, and insights
    • 8 Journaling worksheets to pinpoint coping skills, feelings, emotions, and strategies that work for the individual
    • Daily and Weekly tracking sheets for keeping track of tasks and goals
    • Mindset,Vision, and Habit pages for helping kids make an impact
    • Self-evaluation sheets to self-reflect and identify when inhibition is hard and what choices look like
    • Daily tracker pages so your child can keep track of their day
    • Task lists to monitor chores and daily tasks so it gets done everyday
    • Journal pages to help improve new habits
    • Charts and guides for monitoring impulse control so your child can improve their self-confidence
    • Strategy journal pages to help kids use self-reflection and self-regulation so they can succeed at home and in the classroom
    • Goal sheets for setting goals and working to meet those goals while improving persistence
    • Tools for improving mindset to help kids create a set of coping strategies that work for their needs
    This is a HUGE digital resource that you can print to use over and over again.  


    These fun mindfulness activities for kids can help kids in so many ways!
    About Christina:
    Christina Komaniecki is a school based Occupational Therapist. I graduated from Governors State University with a master’s in occupational therapy.   I have been working in the pediatric setting for almost 6 years and have worked in early intervention, outpatient pediatrics, inpatient pediatrics, day rehab, private clinic and schools. My passion is working with children and I love to see them learn new things and grow. I love my two little girls, family, yoga and going on long walks.

    Executive Functioning Skills Course

    free executive function course

    Free Executive Functioning Course

    Wondering about what are executive functioning skills? Today, I’m very excited to share a mini course that I’ve been working on behind the scenes. This Free Executive Functioning Skills Course is a FREE, 5-day email course that will help you understand executive functioning and all that is included in the set of mental skills.

    Executive functioning skills course for understanding executive function skills in kids.

    So often, therapists are asked to explain executive functioning. Parents are looking for insight and how to help kids who struggle with the underlying areas that play a part in attention, organization, working memory, impulse control, and the other executive functioning skills. Teachers are looking for strategies to use in the classroom while understanding exactly what makes up executive functioning and how to help disorganized kids in the classroom.

    Does any of these scenarios sound familiar?


    This free executive functioning skills course will cover all of the above and describe strategies to help.

    Executive functioning skills are a set of mental skills that work together in learning, safety, and functioning through self-regulation, self control and organized thoughts.

    Executive Functioning Skills Course

    If you have ever wondered how to help kids who struggle with:


    • Disorganization leading to impulsive actions and inattention in the classroom
    • The child that struggles to plan ahead and be prepared for the day
    • The child that lacks insight to cross a busy street without looking both ways
    • The student that loses their homework and important papers every day
    • The kiddo that just can’t get simple tasks done like cleaning up toys on the playroom floor
    • The child that focuses on other kids rather than a classroom assignment and then doesn’t finish in a given time
    • The kiddo that is constantly late because he can’t prioritize morning tasks like brushing teeth, eating breakfast, and getting dressed.
    Do any of THESE scenarios sound familiar?
    Easy strategies to help with executive functioning in kids in this free executive functioning course

    So often, we KNOW kids are struggling with mental tasks that limit their functioning, safety, and learning. Here’s the thing: executive functioning skills develop over time. Kids aren’t instinctively able to organize, plan, prioritize, or use self-control. These skills occur with age, time, and use.
    But, for the child that struggles in any one area, so many tasks that require executive functioning skills suffer. As a result, we see problems with social-emotional skills, self-consciousness, frustration, anxiety, or more!
    Executive functioning skills course for understanding executive function and strategies to help

    Information on Executive Functioning Skills, right in your inbox!

    So, if you are wondering about executive functioning skills…or want to know more about how executive functioning skills work together in learning and everyday activities…join us in the free 5-day executive functioning skills email course!
    Understand executive functioning skills with this free executive functioning skills course.

    A little more information on the executive functioning skills email course:

    1. This course is entirely email-based. All you have to do is open your email and read!
    2. You’ll discover the “why” behind executive functioning, what to do about impulsivity, tips and tools, and loads of resources related to executive functioning skills.
    3. We’ll cover impulse control, including how we use all of the executive functioning skills along with self-control and self-regulation strategies to “get stuff done”.
    4. This email course doesn’t have homework or tests. This mini-course is informative and low-key.
    Take this free executive functioning skills course to understand self-control, attention, working memory, and more.
    Enter your email in the form below to confirm your subscription to the email course and you’ll be on your way.
    Disclaimer: This email mini-course does not provide continuing education units or professional development units. The course is not intended to treat or evaluate any executive functioning or impulse control needs. This mini-course is intended for information purposes only. The reader is responsible for any action or consequence as a result of strategies listed in the email mini-course or on this website. The OT Toolbox and it’s author are not responsible for any results of actions taken as a result of reading this website or it’s email or social media outlets.
    Know someone who would be interested in this free executive functioning skills course? Share the images below and let them know!

    Executive Functioning Information

    Free email course on executive functioning skills
    Understand executive functioning skills with this free email course for parents, teachers, and therapists
    Take this free executive functioning skills course to understand attention, self-control, and other executive function skills
    Improve executive functions with easy strategies after understanding what's happening behind behaviors and actions.

    What is Impulse Control?

    what is impulse control

    What is impulse control and what is normal development of impulsivity in child development?

    Speaking out of turn. Pushing into a classmate in the bathroom line. Interrupting adult conversations. Grabbing a toy from a friend. Impulse control in kids can look like a lot of different things. But what is normal self-control in kids and what is considered impulsivity that interferes with social interactions and emotional wellness? Below we’re going to discuss what is impulse control and how to begin to work on impulsivity strategies so kids can succeed in learning and social situations. Helping kids learn impulse control can be tricky! It helps to understand what impulsivity looks like, what is normal development, and other considerations.

    You may want to check out this toolbox of tips on how to teach kids impulse control.

    Helping kids with impulse control and self-control happens in normal child development. But when you think about what is impulse control and how to help kids with interactions, these impulsivity strategies can help!

    What is impulse control?

    The definition of Impulse control is as varied as we are as individuals. The thing is, we are all driven by different desires and internal ambitions. Impulse control generally refers to the ability to control oneself, especially one’s emotions and desires. The way these impulses present is expressed as actions, thoughts, behaviors and can occur in any situation but especially in difficult situations.

    Here are easy ways to improve impulse control in kids.

    Impulse control requires self-regulation, internal drive, coping strategies, and other internal skills in order to filter impulses as they present in various situations.

    Impulse control disorder

    In order to present with a diagnosis of an impulse control disorder, a set of specific symptoms and signs must be present. These specific symptoms vary depending on the individual and other factors such as developmental level, age, gender, internal drive, and other considerations. However, the signs and symptoms of impulse control disorder generally include different behavioral, physical, cognitive, and psychosocial symptoms. The specific diagnosing factors are not going to be discussed in this particular post but it is worth mentioning that these can present in many different ways. For example, some kids may have aggression, lying, stealing, risky behaviors, low self-esteem, irritability, impatience, and other presenting factors.

    For more information on impulse control disorder and if you think this is a concern that should be addressed in an individual, please reach out to a physician.

    Impulsivity definition

    Medically speaking, the definition of impulsivity refers to an inclination to act on an impulse rather than a thought. Those of us who are generally impulsive in most situations, have difficulty curbing their immediate reactions or think before they act. This can look like the child that speaks without raising his hand in the classroom. It can be a hasty decision. It can be inappropriate comments.

    Impulse control development

    The thing is, impulse control is a HARD skill to refine. All of us have trouble with impulse control at one time or another! Think about that last time you received an unexpected bill. Maybe you grabbed a cookie or six to calm your nerves. What about when you ran over a pot hole and ended up with a flat tire on the freeway. Did an expletive escape your lips? Impulse control is hard when our minds and body’s are dealing with difficult situations.

    The thing is, that we learn to deal with the everyday stuff without eating dozens of cookies or yelling obscenities at our car radio. We filter information, adjust to situations, and make behavioral, mental, and psychosocial responses accordingly.

    How does development of impulse control happen?

    Impulse control skills reside in the prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain doesn’t fuly develop until we are in our twenties. It’s easy to see why impulsivity is such a common theme up through early adulthood!

    Additionally, sensory modulation, emotions, outside situations, difficult environments, illness, stress, anxiety, and so many other issues can compound impulsive acts.

    In fact, impulse control doesn’t begin to develop until around age 3.5- 4. 

    We will be covering development of impulse control more thoroughly in an upcoming blog post.

    What does impulse control look like?

    We’ve talked about how impulse control looks so different for different people. We’ve covered the fact that different situations can bring about different impulsive responses.

    The thing is, impulse control is so varied!

    Here are some examples of impulse control in kids:

    • Keeping negative thoughts to oneself
    • Not saying exactly what one is thinking about in the moment
    • Controlling anger and using a coping strategy instead of physically acting out
    • Raising a hand instead of speaking out in the classroom
    • Standing in a line without pushing or shoving
    • Asking to join a friend’s game or activity instead of jumping right in
    • Asking to look at or share a toy instead of just taking it
    • Being patient when having to wait
    • Waiting for instructions on an assignment before starting right away
    • Resisting distractions in the classroom or while doing homework
    • Waiting until dessert to eat a sweet or special treat
    • Not giving up when things are hard

    And these are just SOME examples!

    Don’t forget to join us in this FREE email course on executive functioning skills and impulse control.

    Stay tuned for more information on impulse control coming very soon. We’ve got some great resources and tools to share with you!

    More impulse control activities and ideas you will love:

     How to Teach Kids Impulse Control

    What is Modulation?

    Easy Ways to Improve Impulse Control

    Free Executive Functioning Skills Mini Course

    Wondering what impulse control means and what impulsivity looks like in kids? Kids develop impulse control over time, but there are ways to help kids with impulse control!

    Free Classroom Sensory Strategies Toolkit

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      Free Classroom Sensory Strategies Toolkit

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        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 contact@theottoolbox.com.