Executive Functions (EF) refers to our self-regulatory behaviors needed to guide our behaviors to follow rules and reach our goals.
- Working Memory – being able to hold information in their mind and use it (organizing, planning)
- Inhibitory Control – being able to control (stop, pause) thoughts and impulses while being able to resist distractions, temptations, and habits, while also thinking before acting
- Cognitive Flexibility – being able to switch gears and adjust to new rules, demands, and perspectives
The simple of act of ‘turn-taking’ addresses all of these components of EF. Help your child stop what he is doing and let another child take control (inhibitory control) – when it is his turn again, he needs to remember what he was supposed to do (working memory) – initiate play again and in the instance of a new child joining the group and the rules changing, help him adjust again (cognitive flexibility).
Research has shown that early childhood experiences build the foundation for fostering productive members of society!
Here are 10 activities to help your child blossom his Executive Functioning (EF) skills!
- Peek-a-boo: This challenges baby to remember who is hiding (working memory) and teaches self-control in waiting for the adult to pop back up!
- Pat-a-cake: Predictable rhyming develops working memory as he gains familiarity with the rhyme and inhibiting (pausing) his anticipatory reactions
- Freeze dance: This requires active inhibition.
- Narrate your childs’ play: This helps your child understand how language is connected to actions and how asking questions about what is next can help him to plan his next move (planning and organizing)!
- UNO: Switching between matching colors versus numbers helps to practice cognitive flexibility.
- Cooking: Waiting for instructions (inhibition), trying to remember the directions (working memory) and measuring and counting steps (sustained-attention) all help to develop EF skills.
- Sports: Rule following, and quick decision making (cognitive flexibility) make this a great EF skill building activity.
- Music, singing & dance: Holding music/choreography in mind (working memory) develops EF skills.
- Puzzles: This develops EF skills for all ages by encouraging thinking about shapes and colors needed (planning & organizing) to complete the puzzle.
- Storytelling & imaginative play: Older children may naturally use ordinary objects as something creative (i.e. using a block as a car)- (Cognitive flexibility).