Minecraft, Executive Functioning and ADHD

Minecraft is a wildly popular game with a huge virtual world for children to explore, build and play in. With no clearly set goals, players are free to set their own objectives, mining out resources in order to construct the world as they please. But what’s going on in their brains while kids seek out their own adventures?

Minecraft‘s free-form approach to gameplay can be quite challenging, and requires proper planning, good organization skills, and the ability to sustain effort and attention toward a goal. Dangerous creatures arrive at night, so poor planning and an inability to focus on tasks can cause players to be caught unprepared, as they must create equipment and shelter in order to defend themselves. Lengthy planning, keen organizational skills and the ability to sustain focus over prolonged periods of time are not traits commonly attributed to children diagnosed with ADHD, yet those are the very skills players need to put to work in order to achieve success and survive the dangers of Minecraft.

Minecraft Projects for Executive Functioning and ADHD

Using the game as an educational tool for children with ADHD can help reinforce and practice key cognitive thinking skills with which these children commonly struggle with — all within the fun world of Minecraft. All this week, we’ll be sharing specific ways to use Minecraft to help kids with ADHD, offering structured projects to try with your child. Each project will target a specific thinking skill, with detailed guidance on exactly how to exercise it during gameplay.

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For an overview of the game’s potential benefits for children with ADHD, read up on our Minecraft guide, which lays out some basic cognitive concepts that feature in the game. Be sure to check back during the week for more fun Minecraft projects, but in the mean time, read over some excerpts from our guide below:

Tips for Using Minecraft to teach Executive Functioning:

  • Set strict play time rules. By limiting your child’s exposure to the game into regimented time slots, you’re not only helping avoid addictive use of the game (something kids with ADHD are at risk for), but also maximizing the benefits of your child’s play time. This helps reinforce proper planning and sustained attention, as an absent-minded approach will lead to little progress within the limited time.
  • Set some goals. The best way to get going in the game is to set some very basic goals. These include collecting mined materials, building a workbench to craft items upon, and constructing some simple shelter before nightfall. Make sure to discuss all the steps involved and the need the focus on the task at hand in order to achieve your goals before nightfall — and monsters! — arrive.
  • Set some bigger goals. Once you have discussed how setting some simple goals early on require good Planning and Focus skills, really put them to work by going for something big. This could include venturing out into uncharted land to set up a second home base, or traveling into the depth to tunnel out new mining material. Explain why poor planning and a lack of focus will likely lead to failure, and how breaking the tasks into smaller steps and remaining attentive will help improve the chances for success.
  • Re-create something from the real world. Now that you’ve tackled some bigger projects, go for something a bit more challenging. Have your child pick something from real life to recreate in the game, preferably something easily accessible–either at home or online–as it will be necessary to easily reference it to ensure an authentic virtual counterpart. Grab a pen and paper and be thorough. List the needed materials, plot out a spot to build it in the game and start creating your structure. Try to go for something really big so that your child can see the benefits of goal-directed persistence and preparation.

LW4K’s Projects for Cognitive Learning with Minecraft:

 

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4 thoughts on “Minecraft, Executive Functioning and ADHD

  1. Wondering about all of the killing of the animals that take place in Minecraft. What suggestions do u have for discouraging my son from this action?

    • Julie,
      You aren’t alone with this concern, but every parent’s approach is different. Success in Minecraft does depend on killing animals for food — there aren’t many ways to get around this. We suggest that you take the opportunity to talk to your child about the difference between the video game and real life, and (depending on your child’s age) as a starting point for a larger discussion about violence and ethics. Feel free to share any strategy for approaching this that works for you.

  2. My son is 10 and he is so into minecraft, I enjoy letting him play because there is not much he is into. This is one thing I feel he can build on those skills he is lacking, as in poor attention and requires proper planning, good organization skills, and the ability to sustain effort and attention toward a goal. It honestly amazes me how he is can focus so well on this and yet in other areas as in school work, his attention is not as good but, this is the BIG TALK among our children. He has been diagnosed with ADHD, ODD and a Specific Learning Disability in Basic Reading and Written Expression. He has a very creative mind.

    • Thank you so much for sharing your personal experiences with us, Latrisha! We agree that a large part of what makes Minecraft such a good teaching tool is that it is so universally popular. Have you used our Minecraft Playbook to talk to your kids about the kinds of skills they use in the game and how to apply those skills to school?

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