At Home EF Activities

#3 Executive Function @ Home Activity

School-Age children through Adult

Classic Board Games

Areas developed: Planning, Collaboration, Critical Thinking & Problem Solving, Communication, Patience, Focus, Processing, Working Memory, Organization

It's time to move away from video games and dust off those classic board games.  

Board games used to be a staple of entertainment for many families... and for good reason!  Classic board games combine fun with learning, while simultaneously strengthening family bonds through interaction.  Let's review a few classic board games from your childhood.  These games are still relevant today and help strengthen executive functioning.

  1. Monopoly: Perhaps the granddaddy of all board games, this classic improves counting, addition, subtraction, and the basics of working-memory-based problem-solving.  Obviously, the movement of the tokens and the buying and selling of property strengthen mathematics skills, but there is also the problem-solving aspect, which requires anticipation and abstract thinking: 'Do I spend what's left of my money on a hotel since my brother's car token is so close?  Or do I wait until I've passed his properties, so I don't have to mortgage anything if I get hit?'

  2. Battleship: Another classic, this game is fantastic for improving Spatial Memory, which is a difficult skill for many individuals with ADHD.  Does your child lose his or her backpack all the time?  Do you constantly forget where you put things?  Battleship is the game for you, as it facilitates keeping various pieces of geographic data in memory long enough to act on that information upon the player's next turn.

  3. Risk: Perhaps the most comprehensive game in terms of the sheer number of cognitive skills developed. Risk is outstanding at developing organizational and problem-solving skills.  Numbers of troops, possible attacks from multiple directions, whether to push forward or draw back, how many resources to spend this turn versus next, outgoing expenditures versus incoming revenue.  The management of so many factors employs a vast array of cognitive skills, from working memory to discriminatory processing to social skills.  Yes, social skills!  A large part of the game of Risk involves interacting with your fellow players to ascertain what they intend to do. Being able to read facial expressions and body language is vital to a better understanding of your peer’s intent.  

'Do they really want to be allies?  Or will they break our truce as soon as I spread my troops too thin?'

These are three of our staff favorites, but here are a couple more oldies but goodies:

Simon: the classic electronic sequencing game for Short Term Memory.

Operation: also, an electronic game that develops both Motor Skills and Hand-Eye Coordination.

Perhaps the best part about these board games is that they give parents an excellent vehicle with which to engage the entire family in a fun activity that is not hyper-stimulating.  

Today grab one of those board games you haven't looked at in awhile and play!  As you are playing, think about all the skills that are being developed.  If you don't currently have any board games, spend time as a family researching different board games online.  Take a vote on 1 or 2 you can order, and let the fun (and executive function development) begin!