Our brains perform several tasks that are necessary to think and act. During early childhood, it is important develop some of these tasks. Some of the most important ones help us learn new information, keep new information in our minds, and use it to solve problems of everyday life. These tasks are performed by the management system or executive part of the brain. To understand them better, let’s take a closer look at executive functions and why they are important:
What are executive functions?
As adults, we have the ability to hold onto and work with information, focus, filter distractions, and switch our thinking into a different direction. These are a set of skills scientists call executive functions. These skills rely on three different types of brain function: mental flexibility, working memory, and self-control. Children aren’t born with these skills, but they are born with the potential to develop them.
Why are executive functions important?
Executive functions help us develop skills of teamwork, decision-making, working towards goals, critical thinking, and being aware of our emotions and those of others. Research shows that executive function skills can also positively impact early literacy and math skills. The earlier children learn these skills, the easier it is for them to adapt to different environments, self-regulate themselves, find solutions to problems and grow in other fields.
Children with executive functioning problems do not usually perform thinking and acting tasks intuitively. They can have a lot of difficulty with planning, organising their space, and managing time. They may also show difficulties in working memory.
How to boost excutive functions
Executive functions can easily be taught and improved. But remember: Children learn at their own pace. So, keep in mind that some children may pick up these skills faster than others.
- Use visual aids
To practice completing steps and following directions, try including visual aids. For example, if your child uses chore charts, add images to accompany each task.
- Let them teach you something
One of the most effective ways to learn and retain any information is to teach it to someone else. You can ask your child to teach you a simple task such as how to get dressed or how to brush teeth.
- Create a routine
Children learn through doing. So, establish a morning or afternoon routine that your child can follow. By practicing following the same steps every day, your child learns to store information.
- Act it out
A fun way to practice executive functions is through storytelling. Allow your child to make up a story and have them act it out. It’s an exciting way to apply thoughts and actions at the same time.