Minecraft, Executive Functioning and ADHD

by Patrick Elliot

Minecraft is a widely 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 towards 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 which this population of 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 will target a specific thinking skill, and show you exactly how to exercise it during gameplay.

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 play out 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 the risk over addictive use of the game (something kids with ADHD are at risk for), but also causing your child to maximize play time. This helps reinforce the need of 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 discussed how setting some simple goals early on required good Planning and Focus skills, really put them to work by scaffolding up the challenge and 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 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 re-create in the game, preferably something easily accessible–either at home or online–as you’ll want to be able 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.

heartWhat the ADHD Experts Say about Coaching for ADHD

We recommend that you hire an ADD coach to assist you in the process. Get yourself a coach to help you stay on track- Kate Kelly and Peggy Ramundo. Authors of You Mean I’m Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?!
Coaching, it turns out, is one of the most powerful and effective ways for people with ADHD to achieve success.- Thom Hartmann. Writer of 7 books on ADHD who has ADHD.
Coaching is the single most effective tool in ADD self-management.- Dr. Edward M. Hallowell, M.D. Author of several books on ADHD who has ADHD
Coaching intervention can make a real difference in how people with AD/HD negotiate their own particular deficits and cope with life on a daily basis- ADDA - Attention Deficit Disorder Association

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The name "Take Flight Coaching" was inspired by travel as a metaphor for living. Travel encourages and expands skills and qualities such as exploration, discovery, self-reliance, recognizing strengths, planning, awareness, and an overall openness to following what might be a completely foreign path in order to get where one wants to go.

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