Building Executive Functioning skills can happen organically, but it can also involve deliberate practice. Making progress often feels slow and practice can be difficult and boring. We often forget that fun activities can be used to improve Executive Functioning.
How Games Can Help Improve Executive Functioning
Games that delay rewards are especially useful. This requires the child to practice sustained attention, planning, working memory, and inhibition. Board games such as Monopoly, Chess, or Clue can help build these skills. Problem-solving video games can provide this type or practice as well. For example, The Legend of Zelda requires a sustained effort over time, without immediate gratification and real-time wait periods that keep sessions to a reasonable time each day but build increasing strategy over weeks. SimCity, and other organization-based games, require bursts of short-term attention, delayed rewards, and strategy skills for achieving long-term objectives. Managing a fantasy sports team is a great example of bringing executive skills to real-world problems as it requires a coordinated, long-term effort, regular check-ins (pacing) and a reward that is delayed for months. There are also tech companies building gaming platforms specifically to address Executive Functioning deficits. EndeavorRX received FDA approval as a prescription-only gaming system to improve attention. Mightier.com uses a tablet and smart-watch (to monitor heart rate) to help students practice self-regulation and emotional regulation. It might not seem like it, but these games improve Executive Functioning skills in ways that can translate to executing on homework, completing big projects (with long-term efforts and delayed rewards), and even studying for exams. Of course, games should be used in moderation. For an extended discussion and more suggestions on ways to practice EF skills, check out this podcast from the ADHD Experts at ADDitude Magazine.