3 Games to Improve Inhibitory Control

3 games to increase your students' ability to improve their inhibitory control.

Do you have students who seem to run on automatic pilot at all times?

Inhibitory control is one of the core components of our broader Executive Functioning Skills. It’s what helps us control our behavior to selectively attend, to focus on what we choose in light of other distractions.

It typically starts developing around preschool age but really depends on the maturation of the prefrontal cortex.

In addition to helping us attend to tasks, it helps us have control. Control over our bodies, our thoughts and emotions. Being at the mercy of your every whim leads to frustration and frustration leads to negative behaviors.

Let’s be proactive and work on these skills from early on.


These 3 old school games will allow your students to practice controlling their impulses by selectively attending to instructions while filtering or suppressing other environmental cues.



  1. Freeze Dance

Play your students’ favorite music and encourage them to dance around and let their wiggles loose. Tell them when you stop the music they need to freeze or act like a statue. I never recommend having students get “out.”. Just heavily praise the ones who stop and remind the others who didn’t. You’ll see they’ll all get it.


  1. Simon Says

This is a more advanced game conceptually. The kids should only follow “Simon’s” directions if he says “Simon says” before stating the instruction and do the motor movement. If this is too difficult for your students, one way you can modify it is having a distractor person besides Simon who is doing different movements. The idea is the kids filter out the distracting stimuli while attending to Simon.



1. Red Light Green Light

    Kids line up in a row while someone across from them yells “green light” indicating for those in line to go or “red light” to stop. Mix up by having having the kids hop, walk or skip instead of always running. A red light/green light prop also helps!  


    Categories: executive functioning, play skills, social emotional learning