Updated: Jul 24
Impulse control issues bubble right to the top when playing games. The games listed in this article require kids to stop and think about their behavior and use skills to gain control over their bodies to be able to play. They help to develop body awareness, problem-solving skills, and natural consequences. Giving kids the chance to mess up and learn from their mistakes is a large part of this process. They start to recognize how their impulsive behavior prevents them from winning and they have to be intentional about overcoming these impulses.
Connect 4 Launchers
Connect 4 has been a handy game for years, but this one takes it to the next level. Literally. It is super fun and exciting and takes a lot of self-control. This game requires aim, focus, and strategy to win. Kids also have to work through frustration and managing emotions when they think they are about to win and then you mess up their game by landing a disk on their space.
Anger, anxiety, and impulse control are all at play in this game. It will help kids work on problem-solving skills, communication, and being able to recognize how they need to change their behavior to get desired results. Did I mention this game is fun???
You can see my game review (with video) with more info on the game here.
This game is great for kids who have verbal outbursts. It helps kids identify ways to show their humor in a respectful manner. It addresses healthy boundaries, respect for adults, and lets kids role-play using humor appropriately. I find that it is typically kids with impulse control issues that need this game the most. This game is full of laughs and fun! Telling jokes is part of the game.
by Pathways to Peace
Video game loving kids will enjoy this game about winning at life. It helps them consider life as a video game: when you acheive goals it is like leveling up. When you miss the mark and expereince failure, it is like having to repeat a level. Kids will explore how to they can be strategic about their decisions, what they do with their time, and who they spend their time with. They will also learn to challenge and replace thoughts and use coping skills to overcome big emotions.
Related Post: How is Cognitive Behavioral Counseling Used for Children
Pick Up Sticks
This game must have been made for kids with impulse control issues. The goal of the game is to use enough self-control to lift one stick without moving any of the others. This requires kids to focus, plan ahead, and exert all the self-control they have available.
This is a favorite among many kids in my counseling room. This game requires problem-solving skills and self-control to keep everything moving correctly. It comes with instructions and rules to play the game. I have found it is WAY more therapeutic to ditch the rules and directions and give the kids a box full of parts. This requires them to communicate if they need help, to ask questions about where things go, and to problem-solve to find where everything goes.
Kids tend to have many emotions while playing this game. There is usually some level of frustration they must work through, exhilaration while watching the balls roll through the course, and often disappointment if it doesn’t work correctly. There are also hoops and hollers when the cage falls to trap the mice. There are many kids that will experiment with the game, seeing how many mice will fit under the trap, trying to see if it will work with different balls or obstacles in the way. It certainly gets their minds moving and provides many coping opportunities. I also have a game review with a video that can be found here.
by Mental Phills
This game helps with many issues typical to kids with ADHD. Prompts in this game address disorganization, focus, and social skills. It will help kids get organized, focus, and tune in. It also offers brain breaks to release pent-up energy.
Chutes and Ladders
Chutes and Ladders has built-in rewards and consequences images to help kids identify how making good choices leads to getting ahead and poor choices result in setbacks. It sets the stage for a conversation about behavior and the consequences they experience. Kids can also brainstorm ways to problem solve and give alternative behaviors for the scenarios depicted in the game.
by Carol Miller
This is a cute concept. The kids use little fishing poles to catch fish in the pond. They will then respond to the question on the fish. The questions are aimed at helping children become aware of triggers and how to cope with impulses.
Jenga is great for kids with impulse control issues. Similar to Pick Up Sticks, it requires self-control and being still in order to win. They need body awareness and will often use some breathing exercises to calm their bodies before their turn. It is helpful to point out the skills they use so they can implement them in other situations. It also opens the door for the counselor to model ways to stay calm and focused. Or, you can purposefully act impulsive and knock down the tower, then have them coach you on how to have more self-control.
Related Post: Parenting a Strong-Willed Child
This is a CBT counseling game to help children recognize their motivation for stealing so they can gain control over their behavior. It focuses on empathy, thankfulness, finding other ways to meet needs, and the ability to overcome impulses. Self-talk is identified so they can rescript negative thoughts and be intentional about positive self-talk.
Operation requires a huge amount of self-control with a large dose of anxiety if you miss the mark! Similar to other games mentioned, kids have to use skills to calm and still their bodies before trying to extract a body part in this game. Otherwise, the loud buzzing sound will make them jump out of their skin. It’s great! LOL. Until I’m the one jumping out of my skin…
by Counselor Chelsey
This inexpensive download is a set of games to help children learn body awareness, triggers, and ways to manage impulses. I like that you have different options as to how to play with kids.
These games scratch the surface of those available to play with kids with impulse control issues. Some others you may look at would be Angry Birds Knock on Wood, Consequences, and Uno. Pretty much any game that requires strategy will be helpful. The counselor modeling problem-solving skills, developing strategies, and emotional regulation will allow kids to grow in these skills.
Be sure to visit our blog posts about using games in therapy: Counseling Games You Can Play For FREE!