How Planning Games Help Kids Focus and Thrive!

How Planning Games Help Kids Focus and Thrive!

Is your child struggling to concentrate in school, make decisions, or manage their time? If yes, then consider this your sign to start playing planning games with your family!

Planning games are a fun way to help children improve their attention span and solve problems, which can improve academic performance. Plus, developing planning skills early on is an investment in your child's future success. So, let's dive into planning games and how they can help your child develop organized thinking while boosting executive function skills!

What are Planning Games, and How Do They Help Executive Function Skills?

Planning games help executive function skills for kids- Crystal Cup Rally

Planning games can be a helpful tool for children to improve their skills in setting goals, strategizing, and adapting to challenges. SimplyFun offers planning games that are specifically designed to enhance essential life and thinking skills, which aid in strengthening the brain's ability to plan ahead, achieve objectives, exercise self-control, and follow multi-step directions, even in the presence of interruptions. These abilities are known as 'executive function skills'.

In today's technology-driven world, children are at a higher risk of having fragmented attention and struggling with executive function skills. However, like muscles in the body, the brain can be trained through certain activities or brain games that can help strengthen ones ability to stay focused and organize their thinking.

Although parents, teachers, and guardians already support children's executive function development through everyday interactions, planning games can help boost these essential life skills. These skills can make all the difference in helping children thrive. Furthermore, playing planning games together can help teachers and parents assess a child's skill level in these areas and offer insight into where a child may need improvement.

Did you Know: Developing executive functioning takes practice and is not an inherent ability of the human brain?

Executive Function Skills by Age: Preschool (2-4)

To help support a preschooler's executive function skills, use simple instructions and work your way up to two-to-three-step challenges when they are ready.

My Fun Day

1-2 players • 10 min • 3 & up

This preschool activity board allows early learners to manipulate dials to reflect the time of day, day of the week, and more! 

Executive Function Skills by Age: Preschool-My Fun Day Planning Game

Shelly's Pearl

2-4 players • 10 min • 4 & up

This adorable under-the-sea game helps young learners practice following a set of rules to achieve goals while practicing trading and collaboration so everyone can shell-a-brate together!
Executive Function Skills by Age: Preschool-Shelly's Pearl Planning Game

Executive Function Skills by Age: Early Elementary (5-7)

At this stage of learning, children may start understanding more complex gameplay with a sequence of steps. They may also be able to use strategy to boost their chances of success!

Crystal Cup Rally

2-5 players • 30 min • 7 & up

This three-dimensional game will have players practicing their planning skills and adapting to new conditions around the zany race track!

Executive Function Skills by Age: Early Elementary- Planning Game Crystal Cup Rally

Team Digger

2-4 players • 30 min • 6 & up

Kids create a sequence of commands to move their dog around the park to collect treats! This paws-itively fun early coding game helps children build a plan to reach a goal while collaborating with other players! 

Executive Function Skills by Age: Early Elementary- Planning Game Team Digger

Executive Function Skills by Age: Middle Elementary (8-9)

At this stage of development, children can follow more complicated instructions and often have a stronger grasp on using strategy to create a more efficient outcome. Focus on games that require faster response times and have multiple moving parts in the gameplay to challenge their thinking.

Dish 'em Out

2-5 players • 30 min • 8 & up

This family game favorite is a great way to get kids thinking about planning as they hustle to seat and serve customers at a busy diner. Paying special attention to strategy & planning will help players keep up with the morning rush!

Executive Function Skills by Age: Planning games

Executive Function Skills by Age: Upper Elementary (10+)

By age 10, kids are constantly testing their skills and looking for new challenges. Games that help them stay in the moment and strengthen their attention span will help them develop skills like focus and self-control.


2-4 players • 30 min • 10 & up

In this fun wizard strategy game, players use memory to gather and collect as many of the same type of ingredients as they can to yield the strongest potions!

Executive Function Skills by Age: Upper Elementary- Planning Games

Executive Function Skills by Age: Preteen & Teen

At this stage of development, a child's school schedule and personal life are pretty full. Focus on helping your teen develop skills to anticipate and overcome obstacles, make appropriate decisions, and plan with flexibility.


2-5 players • 40 min • 12 & up

Players use decision-making, strategy, and predicting skills to mobilize their rescue crew and rescue as many people as possible in a disaster zone. The best rescuer wins!

Executive Function Skills by Age: Teen Planning Game

How Planning Games Can Help Strengthen Organized Thinking

1. Planning Games Help Strengthen Decision-Making Skills

In addition to being fun to play, planning games are an excellent tool for strengthening decision-making skills as players choose paths and strategies to complete goals and desired outcomes. 

2. Planning Games Help Kids Practice Actionable Steps to Complete Goals

For children and adults, decision paralysis can be a challenging roadblock in achieving goals. Games that focus on strategy & organizing a plan to reach a result can help players develop those necessary skills to turn a goal into actionable steps.

3. Planning Games Can Help Kids Develop Self-Control

Often times, board games teach us that practicing patience and 'holding out' for a later opportunity is sometimes the best strategy you can make. By teaching children to delay gratification and to 'plan ahead', we can help them learn the importance of making deliberate choices to achieve their goals.

4. Planning Games Help Teach Time Management Skills

Board games teach children that 'timing is everything'. They help kids learn when to play it safe, take a leap, or harness strategy. These are all essential life skills often not taught in school.

5. Planning Games Help Minimize Stress and Self-Doubt

Learning to organize and plan schoolwork and future goals can be overwhelming for children. Planning games provide an excellent opportunity for kids to practice proper planning, goal-setting, and decision-making skills without the pressures and self-defeating doubts that might be associated with them. This provides a safe space for children to practice and strengthen executive function skills like planning and decision-making to achieve their goals.

6. Planning Games Help Kids Practice Perseverance

One of the most essential life skills a child can learn is embracing failure and seeing it as an opportunity for growth and development. Board games are an excellent tool for achieving this as they normalize losing and create a fun and inclusive environment for learning through failed attempts. Even when a player loses a round of gameplay, they gain valuable knowledge that they can use in the next round to play more strategically. This mindset of learning from failure is a healthy and useful skill for children to develop.

Planning games to help kids focus - Dish 'em Out family game

Planning games can provide lifelong benefits to children by aiding in the development of essential executive function skills. Planning games not only benefit developing brains but also helps improve cognitive function in adults too! So, the next time you feel a little scatterbrained, flex your executive function skills by playing a planning game or two with your child. Game on!

Shop: Life & Thinking Games

Read: Executive Functioning Boosts Brain Power

Read: Board Game Lovers Gift Guide

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