Engaging Your Child’s Executive Functioning Skills

Our partners at Kinderberry Hill share some great ideas on how to engage your child's executive-functioning skills.

Engaging Your Child's Executive Functioning Skills | Twin Cities Mom Collective

Whether in-person, online, or hybrid learning, be sure your child is challenged by using his or her executive function skills as school resumes this fall.

At Kinderberry Hill Child Development Centers, we believe it’s never too early to start introducing executive function skills. While it is not necessary to assess children’s ability to use these skills until preschool, we believe executive function skills are critical for children’s future success in school and in life. While children are not born with these important skills, they are born with the potential to develop them starting at an early age.

It’s as simple as playing Peek-a-Boo with infants, encouraging toddlers to follow two-step directions and sing along after you, and encouraging preschoolers to practice yoga. Here are some ways you can strengthen your child’s executive function skills at home at every age.

Infants

  • If you’re happy and you know it: Make different facial expressions (happy, silly, surprised, etc.) as you play Peek-a-Boo. Encourage your child to copy your face.
  • Fingerplays: Songs like The Itsy Bitsy Spider encourage self-control and working memory.
  • Talk to your baby: Whether you’re reading your child a story, narrating your actions as he or she watches you make dinner, or pointing out nature as you go for a walk, the more words an infant is exposed to, the better foundation he or she has for building greater executive function skills as he or she grows.

Toddlers

  • Chores: Following simple two-step directions such as taking a dish to the sink and a napkin to the trash after a meal is a simple way to encourage working memory.
  • Simple sorting games: Sorting objects by color or shape is a simple way to engage a toddler’s attention span.
  • Sensory play: Offering a variety of interesting sensory items (pinecones and leaves, water and rocks, or pasta and paint) and allowing children to make their own discoveries is a great way to instill a motivation for learning.

Pre-K

  • Yoga: Practicing yoga is a great way to learn mindfulness and self-regulation. Find one of our favorite resources here.
  • Play an organized sport: Playing an organized sport like soccer or even a backyard game of kickball reinforces skills like turn taking and following rules.
  • Puzzles and mazes: These are a great way to work on attention span and perseverance.

Kindergarten

  • Tell a group story: Start with something like “It was a dark and stormy night . . .” and take turns adding to a story. This activity helps work on a child’s attentiveness as well as incites flexibility.
  • Word searches are great for increasing attention span and working to create a task.
  • Working towards a goal is excellent practice for strategy and planning. Your child could earn screen time or additional screen time by completing tasks like this.

At Kinderberry Hill, we incorporate executive function skills in our daily classroom activities. We also assess children’s executive function skills biannually using a tool from our friends at Reflection Sciences, Inc. Read more about executive function at Kinderberry Hill here and get more resources from Reflection Sciences, Inc. here.

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