If your kids struggle to get out the door on time, or have everything they need for the day, video games can help! Yes, really! But like many things I suggest, this is a way to use video games to help with underlying skills.
Why is it so hard for kids to get ready?
Many of us are the people who get everyone ready in our families. We carry mental lists of the weather forecast, what after school activities are happening, what homework is due, etc. This means one adult is often carrying the mental load for a whole household. If we want our kids to be independent and able to prepare for the day ahead, we have to give them the chance.
When we do give them a chance, though, they often struggle. They show up at the backdoor without their lunch, or jacket, and then we have to be the ones to still think of what they need and remind them.
This is hard for many kids because it is a skill. Getting ready for an event, knowing what you need for something in the future, and planning appropriately are all executive functioning skills.
What is Executive Functioning?
Executive functioning is an umbrella term for all the skills we need to operate effectively in many parts of life. Exeuctive functioning has lots of different forms and can include task initiation, planning, time management, working memory, self control, emotional regulation, and more. Some people naturally excel in some areas of executive functioning, while others may struggle.
These skills are essential not just for childhood and navigating school but also for adulthood. Executive functioning is what helps us remember where we parked the car, when we need to leave work to pick up the kids, or start writing a term paper earlier than the night before the deadline.
Just like any skill, these are learned and taught skills. Although some may be easier than others, kids don’t necessarily innately know how to plan ahead. They need to be taught, often by a trusted adult. The problem is, it’s often easier for adults to execute the task for a child instead of teaching them to do it themselves. This makes kids more reliant on us to complete their tasks, and frustrates us in the process.
How can Video Games Help?
Video games offer a lot of executive functioning scaffolds in their structure. They give players a list of mission objectives to reference, inventories of items, maps, time limits, and other structures that enforce goals externally. A child may excel in an objective driven game because they always know what to do next, but struggle with an open project because they don’t know what to do next.
One thing video games do frequently is show players the end goal. One way we can help build executive functioning skills is to focus on the end goal and what it will look like. In school settings this looks like having exemplars, chunked steps, or checklists. But we can also use it at home!
The FREE hack you need!
Here’s an easy and FREE tool that can help. The visual on the left is something I made in Google Drawings. I made it vaguely in a “Mario” theme but you could easily do this with other video game characters. This could live wherever a child gets ready before leaving for school; the back door, mud room, front door, etc. To make it more tactile, laminate it and let your child check off or cross off the items with a dry erase marker. You could add items that are needed for certain days of the week or in certain weather and have your child cross them off if not needed.
You can also use this structure and customize it for other parts of your child’s life; “Level 1-2” could be a bedtime checklist, or whatever part of the day needs a little extra help. To make your own copy and customize this for your family, CLICK HERE