Children LOVE games. It’s just a fact. And the best part is that playtime helps them develop executive function. Jamie Glowacki, author of OH CRAP! I HAVE A TODDLER, shares which 8 screen-free games and style of play can help expand your child’s mind.
In addition to how we communicate with our kids, there are also games and ways of playing that help develop executive functioning.
Memory games and matching games are fantastic.
Don’t be afraid to think beyond the physical board games. There’s a plethora of memory/matching games online. Not that I’m encouraging digital over physical, but if you’re inclined to give screen time, it’s better to play games than zone out on YouTube Kids.
Most kids I know, even the little guys, love chess. And you’d be hard-pressed to find a game that builds executive functioning as well as chess. Don’t make the mistake of thinking this game is beyond your child’s ability.
Card games like crazy eights, go fish, war, solitaire, and Uno.
You can’t go wrong with a deck of cards. You can google how to play these games if you’re unfamiliar. Basic solitaire is an amazing sequential numbers game. You’re building some fine math skills without lecturing. What I love about a deck of cards is they’re perfect for taking to a restaurant to play while you’re waiting for food.
Board games are key to developing executive functioning.
Taking turns is a huge freaking deal. Spinning a wheel, tossing dice, followed by pulling a card and moving a piece—all require an order and organizational thought. Candy Land, Trouble, and Sorry! are a few of my favorites.
Do a physical movement and then the next person has to add a physical movement to that. So you hop. The next person hops and leapfrogs. Then you hop, leapfrog, and twirl. And on and on. Burn some energy while learning sequencing.
There are songs that also help reinforce executive functioning principles like order, memorization, concentration, and storytelling. “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly” and “There’s a Hole in My Bucket” are just two such songs
These are a set of nine dice with pictures on them. You make up sequential stories based on the pictures on the dice. There are endless ways to play.
Don’t discount digital games! Many parents allow their children some screen time to watch shows. But shows are just consumption, taking it in and zoning out. There are some amazing digital games that are all about creation. Minecraft is a 3-D building sandbox game, meaning there’s no winning or losing, just building. Think Legos on a screen. Chess and solitaire are also excellent online games. The nice part of digital versions is that they can release you as a playing partner. While I of course encourage actual physical time with your child, I do understand that sometimes you need to do other things than be a playmate.
The Big Takeaway: The basis of this skill set is organizing and processing information in order. In games and all your interactions with your child, remember to slow down. If your child looks lost and distracted, it’s because he is not processing the information as fast as you. Slow it down. Break it into easier, more sequential tasks.
For more parenting tips check out OH CRAP! I HAVE A TODDLER by Jamie Glowacki.
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Excerpted from Oh Crap! I Have a Toddler by Jamie Glowacki. Copyright © 2019 by the author. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.