Put the “Fun” in Executive Function

Child using magnifying glass to improve executive function

Does your child demonstrate difficulty with impulse control, getting organized, remembering directions, or completing daily tasks? These are related to executive function skills, which play a significant role in our daily lives. These are not skills that are innate. These skills develop throughout childhood as we learn and play. 

Executive function includes two ‘types’ of skills: cognition and behavior. Cognition (thinking) skills are related to planning, organization, time management, and self-monitoring. Behavior (doing) skills relate to response inhibition, emotional control, sustained attention, task initiation, and flexibility.

Below are some fun ways to work on executive function skills with your children: 

  • Use early childhood activities like sorting games, copying block structures, Simon Says, Freeze Dance, and Red Light-Green Light.
  • Play games with patterns, sequences, and memorization (i.e. obstacle courses, memory games, Bop It). 
  • Include them in cooking/ baking activities, including gathering the supplies.
  • Have the child help make a grocery list and go shopping.
  • Reverse roles and have the child teach the steps of the activity/game.
  • Use the “chunking” strategy to group similar steps together, making it more manageable.
  • Use visual aids like schedules, checklists, video modeling, etc.
  • Play turn-taking games such as Connect Four, Jenga, and UNO.
  • Model flexible thinking during unexpected situations or changes in routines.
  • Ask children to make predictions & evaluate their own performance.
  • Solve hidden-picture activities (Highlights magazine has them, or you can search “free printable hidden picture activities” online).
  • Yoga (there are a lot of free children yoga YouTube videos online)
  • Mazes (available for free online)

Written by Brittany Becvar M.S. CCC-SLP and Brianne Griffin, MOT, OTR/L

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