The Greatest Gifts Are Video Games That Improve Executive Functions

Have you ever wondered why kids are so immersed in video game play? Part of the reason is that they are actively taxing their prefrontal cortex, the most sophisticated part of the human brain. Most video game play requires the use of brain-based executive functioning skills such as working memory, cognitive flexibility, and organization. These executive functions are not only crucial to success in video games, but also to academic and real world learning and problem-solving.

Ask a child why they like a video game and they will never tell you “because it’s easy.” Instead they’ll describe the excitement they experience in overcoming challenges. What they probably don’t realize is that in overcoming those challenges, they’re using a variety of executive functions. This combination of fun and brain exercise makes video games ideal for gifting. If you’re looking for a last-minute Christmas gift for your child, here are some great downloadable games that improve executive functions.

The Sandbox is one of many great mobile games that improve executive functions

The Sandbox provides digital free play and challenges kids’ executive functions as they discover elements and create (and destroy) worlds

The Sandbox – Your kids will design and create their own pixel art in The Sandbox, where they play God and discover elements with which to build their own worlds. The Sandbox epitomizes the sandbox game, and its pure digital free play approach helps develop flexibility, focus, planning, and a host of other thinking skills.

Siege Hero WizardsSiege Hero Wizards is an Angry Birds/Bad Piggies clone with a traditional fantasy makeover. Your kids will find the gameplay familiar, though Siege Hero Wizards stands on its own. With beautiful graphics and fantastic physics, the game will engage your child in working on flexibility and planning skills while they have fun smashing through forts and forests.

Brain Rush – a fast-paced puzzle game in which shapes must be matched as they fall from the top of the screen, Brain Rush requires its players to exercise flexibility and focus. If your child loves a challenge, she’ll soon be absorbed in the challenge of earning bonuses by making successful matches.

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Triple TownTriple Town is a match-three puzzle game that challenges players to build a village one random item at a time. Simply placing objects willy-nilly in a player’s village will fill the board up quickly and waste their limited number of turns without netting many points. Exercising planning and self-control skills leads to success in the game, making Triple Town a fun and engaging game that improves executive functions.

For more games that improve executive functions, see our archive of Playbooks and App+ reviews, which include age recommendations, learning quotients (the fun/education average), and guides for playing and talking about the games with your kids.

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