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Fun Ways to improve executive function

Summer is often a time when our kids want to sink into the couch and play on their screens. Nothing wrong with a little downtime; we all need it. But now is also a good time to focus on their strengths and interests to help them with any obstacles they struggle with from their ADHD or Anxiety. Maybe you can develop some life skills for them to work on. Can they get up and out on time by themselves, or do they need some help with time management? Perhaps they struggle with perfectionism or social anxiety. There's stuff we can do to help with that in the summer before they need to head back to a stressful school year.

Kids with ADHD having fun and improving executive function
Playing and sports help kids with ADHD

If you want to help with executive functioning, try using a grocery list and money. Give your child a list of groceries and some cash--I know, who has cash these days?! Send them (or take them) to the store and have them find and buy what they need. If they can budget and spend less, then maybe entice them with the leftover cash (assuming it's small!) as a reward. For older kids, you can even have them choose a menu, write the ingredients, do the shopping, And have them help you cook. Win-Win!

Take advantage of the beautiful weather and organize a friendly sports competition. This not only allows your child to have fun but also provides a fantastic platform to practice executive functioning skills. To make the tournament a success, your child will need to dedicate time each day to work on organizing the event. They'll learn to block distractions, like watching TV or using their phone, while staying focused on the task at hand. They'll exercise their working memory when setting up teams and managing tournament logistics. Unexpected changes in the plan will also provide an opportunity for cognitive flexibility and adaptability.

Bonus: Sports and physical activities have been linked to improved executive functioning skills!

Plan Field Trip Fridays

Summer is the perfect time for local outings to pools, nature preserves, museums, and amusement parks. Instead of taking charge of the planning yourself, empower your child to organize a field trip. Invite them to develop a "proposal" for desired outings, including justifications, distance to the location, transportation plans, and estimated costs. This exercise strengthens their inhibition, planning, organizing, and prioritizing abilities as they narrow down the options and propose the best field trip idea.

Bonus: They'll also exercise working memory and cognitive flexibility when considering transportation options and ticket pricing. Plus, they'll get real-world math practice by adding up trip expenses.

Plant a Garden

Evening walks can provide inspiration for creating an at-home garden. Collaborate with your child to set garden goals and determine the available space and resources. Together, research plants suitable for your climate and sunlight conditions. Regular watering and care will help the garden flourish – a perfect opportunity to practice inhibition and working memory. Engage with gardening communities on social media to connect with neighbors who share a passion for gardening, providing valuable opportunities for meeting and socializing.

Plan a Trip

Summer offers a chance for your child to slow down and practice focusing on one task at a time, a valuable skill in our fast-paced world. Encourage them to engage in a long-term project throughout the summer, promoting focused attention and inhibiting distractions from devices and other diversions. Start with small focus goals and gradually build upon them. Planning a trip is a great way to learn to focus on different activities. There is research to be done on activities, coordinating with family members, looking up places to stay, and maybe even Yelping for some good restaurants.

By providing opportunities for your child to practice these skills in a friendly and enjoyable manner, you're supporting their executive functioning development while creating lasting memories. Enjoy the summer, and have fun building those essential skills!

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