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Stop, Go, or Go Slow?

This article is part of our weekly series Executive Function Tips for Families.

Parents! This game gets the green light for fast, fun EF enhancement!
 

Objective:

This game focuses on listening rules to enhance attention and encourage your child to think before acting.

Executive Function Skills Practiced:

  • Inhibitory Control: Your child will have to stop and start actions based on commands.
  • Working Memory: Players need to remember and follow verbal cues.
  • Cognitive Flexibility: As you work through the levels, your child will have to adapt to different rules and cues.
 

Duration: 10 – 15 Minutes

Environment: Enough table or floor space to display images

Materials ListRed, green, and yellow paper circles

Ready To Play? Game Levels and Step-by-Step Instructions:

  1. Begin with Level 1 so your child can ease into the visual cues and rules.

  2. If your child has trouble resisting the urge to run, have them take slower, larger steps when playing.” 

  3. If they have trouble remembering instructions, have them repeat instructions out loud, step by step.


Game Level 1 – Stop and Go (2-3 years):

  1. Have your child stand near you so they can see and follow visual and verbal cues.

  2. Say: “We are going to play a game! Can you run and move your body like me?” Model by running slowly in one direction.

  3. Then, say: “We are going to go and go and STOP”. Hold up the red stop sign circle.

  4. Continue by saying: “When you see the stop sign and hear me say ‘STOP,’ stop moving!” 

  5. Model stopping.Repeat several times using different movements until your child understands the verbal and visual cues.

 

Game Level 2 – Traditional Rules (3-4 years):

  1. Have your child stand approximately 20 feet away facing you.

  2. Hold up a visual cue and say the matching verbal cue (red paper = “red light”; green paper = “green light”) at the same time.

  3. Say: “This game is called red light/green light. When you hear me say GREEN LIGHT and see the green sign, run toward me. When you hear me say RED LIGHT and see the red sign, you FREEZE your body and stand very still!”

  4. Play the game for several rounds, increasing the challenge level as your child succeeds. by alternating between the green light and red light more quickly and less predictably. 

 

Game Level 3 – Add Yellow Light (4-5 years):

  1. Repeat Level 2, adding yellow as a third option.

  2. Tell your child: “When you hear me say GREEN LIGHT and see the green sign, RUN toward me. When you hear me say RED LIGHT and see the red sign, FREEZE your body and stand very still. When you hear me say YELLOW LIGHT, move your body very SLOWLY toward me – slow as a turtle!”


Game Level 4 – Take Away Visual Cues (5+ years):

  1. Repeat Level 3 using verbal cues only (red light, green light, yellow light).

  2. Say: “I’m going to make this game a little bit tricky! You have to listen really well because I’m going to hide the signs. When you hear me say GREEN LIGHT, RUN toward me. When you hear me say RED LIGHT, you FREEZE your body and stand very still. When you hear me say YELLOW LIGHT, move your body very SLOWLY toward me, slow as a turtle!


Talk & Reflect:

Discuss challenges and strategies with your child.

  • Ask: “Was it easy or hard to stop your body from moving?”
  • Model: Reflection and acknowledge the difficulty of the task.

Additional Ideas & Resources:

  • Invite a group of friends or older siblings to join in the fun!
  • Try the activity at different times of the day and in different settings.
  • Incorporate math or literacy by using numbers or letters on the circles.
  • Combine the game with animal movements for the green light – move like an elephant, crab, etc.
  • For older preschoolers in group play, have one child be the “police officer” who leads and directs traffic.

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