Good news for fans of family game night! Playing games are a fabulous and fun way for kids to improve their executive function skills. Executive function is the way the brain helps us to manage, strategize and pursue goals, through control of our emotions and behavior. Kids with good executive function skills have an easier time in school, have greater focus and memory skills, better impulse control and can more easily deal with complex and new experiences. Sounds like something we all want for our kids, yes?
The best part is that playing games as a family also strengthens our relationships with our kids. Plus, it is fun (as long as competitiveness is managed appropriately!) It’s a win-win-win situation.
While I would argue all games improve executive function, here are some of the our featured games that you must add to your repertoire to help kids exercise concentration, long term strategy, spatial thinking and mental speed. I have featured many of them as a Game of the Month. (Note: this post contains affiliate links.)
2. Blokus reminds me of a lot of puzzle video games, but manipulating actual 3D pieces works kids’ brains in a different way than staring at a screen. The classic Blokus was a game of the month for it’s awesomeness at giving my son’s concentration, spatial thinking, and patience skills a workout. Plus it’s fantastic for math learning, too.
5. ThinkFun Swish is a unique card game that really challenges kids’ spatial reasoning skills, concentration and also impulse control! Swish and Swish Jr. made our game of the month feature.
6. Dots and Boxes. This is a simple, classic pen and paper game, that teaches strategy. Find the rules (and a video!) here.
7. Tapatan is a three in row game from the Philippines. Make a game board quickly at home to play this fun strategy game. Full Tapatan instructions here.
8. Forbidden Island is a cooperative game! Cooperative games are perfect for families which have members who tend to have hurt feelings when they lose. Team building, cooperative planning and strategy, learning give and take are all at play here. See Forbidden Island’s game of the month feature here.
These STEM games for kids are also excellent for developing growth mindset and executive functioning skills!