At Kinderberry Hill Child Development Centers, practicing executive function skills are an important part of our program. If you follow early childhood journals or parent resource websites, you have probably heard the term Executive Function. Executive Function (EF) skills help us control ourselves. They allow children to remember two and three step instructions, stop before they act, and even to calm down when upset. These skills not only support school readiness and academic success, but also correlate with mental and physical health in adulthood. Read more about the importance of executive function skills here.
Here are a few examples of how we foster executive function in our classrooms that can easily be incorporated into your daily routines:
- Play games that require children to focus, remember the rules, and follow directions. (For example: Simon Says or Red Light, Green Light).
- Help children feel understood and encourage them to express what they are feeling. (For example: Try asking them, “You look really sad right now. Can you tell me what made you upset?”).
- Praise children’s efforts in practicing executive function. (For example: Use phrases like, “You are working so hard.” Or, “You are waiting patiently.” Another good one is, “You didn’t give up!” and “You remembered all of the directions!”).
Mindfulness exercises help children calm down, regulate stress, and become aware of the present moment. Here are a few ideas to support EF in children through mindfulness practices:
- Mindful listening activities in small groups.
- Mindful movement exercises through yoga poses and breathing exercises.
When you sense a need to bring some calmness into your home, here are some of our favorite tools that you can use to practice mindfulness with your children.
- Practice breathing using a breathing ball. Expand the ball on inhales, collapse the ball on the exhale.
- Stuffed animal breaths: lay on back and place a stuffed animal on your belly. As you breathe in, watch your stomach rise and lift the animal. As you breathe out, watch the animal sink.
- Yoga: this certainly isn’t a new concept, but practicing just a few child friendly poses with your kids can change the dynamic of the room in a short period of time. A few of our favorites for toddlers can be found here. A few of our favorites for older children can be found here.
- Reading together: Reading is a great way to slow down. Read a family favorite together. Or try the book Breathe Like a Bear. It has 30+ mindful moments for kids.
- Music: Music is a great tool for relaxing. Just adding some quiet, classical music in the background can be calming. Here are a few of our favorites that include some mindfulness exercises.
We hope these ideas bring calm, peaceful moments to you and your family.
We’d like to leave you with a quote from one of our favorites that feels very appropriate right now: