Every day, in many ways, we all count on Executive Functions in our brains to regulate our emotions, manage frustrations, and keep us on task working towards our goals. Many folks, young and old, struggle to find the motivation to keep going, despite road blocks that life seems to put in front of us.

Imagine for a moment if there was a fun way to utilize the knowledge we have gleaned from studying the human brain to help our children tune up their Executive Function skills, make their lives easier, while achieving more success at school! Yes, it’s true: with your support and lots of practice, our children can hone their skills and learn to inhibit their impulses, using fun games and activities. The only catch is that skill building is like muscle building – it needs a long term commitment. But it sure is worth it.

Executive Function skills serves us like a good coach, or CEO of a company. These skills allow us to hold back until the time is right, to choose what we should share with the person who annoyed us, and the best time to do so because we have a goal. Whether that goal is to make friends, to persist when the going gets tough, or to say no to a friend who may be inviting us into trouble, these skills can help us plan, organize, control our attention and focus on what’s important.

It turns out that many of the games we played with our parents and friends, which may seem silly in the age of technology, were really good for our Executive Functioning development. Using current knowledge, parents CAN help their children with these fun brain-based strategies at home to get the biggest payoff for our youth at school. Here are some ideas that can help:

Memory & Matching Games: Card games like Go Fish, Uno, and Old Maid can improve working memory. Your child has to remember the location of particular cards, keeping in mind rules of the game, and also which cards others have played.

Playing a musical instrument supports self-monitoring and selective attention, challenging the memory.

Dancing furthers these skills sets, as dancers must hold choreography in mind while coordinating their movements with music.

Board Games that involve strategy provide opportunities to make and hold a plan in mind for several moves ahead, consider options, and adjust in response to the opponent’s moves. Ex: Checkers, Battleship, Connect4. For tweens and teens – Chess, Apples, Settlers of Catan.

Puzzles are available for all skills levels, and require information to be held and manipulated in working memory.

Brain Teasers additionally require children to strengthen mental flexibility in devising potential solutions.

It’s not ONLY about knowing what to do… It’s about doing what you know. One of the best ways for a child to improve Executive Functioning skills is to practice. And it doesn’t have to hurt…it can be fun too!

Contact DM for more information. Sincerely, DM Couple & Family Services