Boost Your Child’s Brainpower: Executive Function Games

Summer is the perfect time to hone essential executive function skills through engaging games. Whether you’re looking to boost planning, organization, or decision-making abilities, these games offer fun ways to strengthen these crucial cognitive abilities while enjoying the sun-filled days.  

What Are Executive Function Skills?  

Executive function skills are mental processes that help children manage their behaviour, emotions, and thoughts to achieve goals. Key skills include:  

Working MemoryHolding and using information in short-term memory (e.g., following multi-step instructions)
Cognitive FlexibilityAdapting to new situations and thinking about multiple concepts simultaneously (e.g., switching between tasks)
Self ControlRegulating impulses and emotions (e.g., waiting their turn and managing frustrations)
Response InhibitionThinking before acting and resisting the urge to perform inappropriate actions
Sustained AttentionMaintaining focus on a task or activity over an extended period  
Task InitiationBeginning tasks promptly and without procrastination  
Planning and PrioritizingSetting goals, determining the best steps to achieve them, and prioritizing tasks
OrganizationKeeping track of information and materials to ensure tasks are completed efficiently 
Time ManagementEffectively managing time to meet deadlines and balance various responsibilities  
MetacognitionSelf-monitoring and evaluating performance and strategies to improve learning and problem-solving

Why Executive Function Skills Are Important

Developing these skills is crucial for several reasons:  

  • Academic Success: Helps with organizing tasks, following instructions, and problem-solving, essential for school performance.  
  • Social Skills: Improves interactions with peers and adults by managing emotions and handling conflicts effectively.  
  • Life Skills: Essential for daily life management, long-term goal achievement, and professional success. 
  • Behavioural Regulation: Enhances resilience and reduces the likelihood of behavioural issues by promoting emotional regulation and perseverance. 

By fostering executive function skills, parents and guardians can help their children build a strong foundation for lifelong learning and success.  

Games to Develop Executive Function Skills

Here are eleven board games that develop executive function skills in children ages five and up, along with the specific skills each game targets: 

  1. Ticket to Ride 
    • Skills Developed: Planning, strategic thinking, working memory 
    • Description: Players collect train cards to claim railway routes across a map. It requires planning and foresight to block opponents and complete the longest routes​ (The OT Toolbox)​​ (The OT Toolbox)​.  
    1. Magic Labyrinth 
      • Skills Developed: Spatial memory, planning, cognitive flexibility 
      • Description: Players navigate an invisible maze to collect treasures, demanding recall of obstacle locations and strategy adjustment as the maze changes​ (The OT Toolbox)​.  
    1. Jump In’ 
      • Skills Developed: Problem-solving, planning 
      • Description: A single-player game where players must navigate rabbits to their homes while avoiding foxes, enhancing planning and logical thinking skills​ (The OT Toolbox)​. 
    1. Max (the Cat) 
      • Skills Developed: Emotional control, planning, flexible thinking 
      • Description: A cooperative game where players help critters evade a cat, requiring team-based strategy and adaptability​ (Understood)​. 
      1. Jenga 
        • Skills Developed: Self-monitoring, impulse control, flexible thinking 
        • Description: Players take turns removing blocks from a tower and balancing them on top, demanding careful planning and control over actions​ (Understood)​. 
        1. Distraction 
          • Skills Developed: Working memory, cognitive flexibility 
          • Description: Players memorize a sequence of numbers and face interruptions that test their ability to recall the sequence under pressure​ (Understood)​. 
        1. MindTrap 
          • Skills Developed: Critical thinking, flexible thinking 
          • Description: This game presents riddles and puzzles that require creative and logical problem-solving skills​ (Understood)​.
        1. AnimaLogic
          • Skills Developed: Planning, organization, cognitive flexibility 
          • Description: Players solve pattern puzzles to help animals cross a river, enhancing sequencing and logical thinking skills​ (Understood)​. 
          1. Snake Oil 
            • Skills Developed: Task initiation, flexible thinking, organization 
            • Description: Players create and pitch products to different characters, promoting creativity and quick thinking​ (Understood)​. 
            1. Quiddler 
              • Skills Developed: Organization, planning, prioritizing, flexible thinking 
              • Description: A word game where players use letter cards to form words, requiring strategic use of resources and adaptive thinking​ (Understood)​. 
              1. Monopoly deal 
                • Skills Developed: Planning, prioritizing, flexible thinking, task initiation. 
                • Description: A card game adaptation of Monopoly where players collect property sets and money and use action cards to sabotage opponents, aiming to be the first to complete three property sets to win. It’s quick-paced and mixes strategy with a bit of luck.  

              These games are fun and help children practice and enhance executive function skills essential for their cognitive development and daily life management.

              Sofia Lopez Nakashima, Senior Manager, Assessments

              LDS is a community of dedicated professionals who write collaboratively. We recognize the contribution of unnamed team members for their wisdom and input.