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3 Ways to Practice Executive Function Skills at Home

We just wrote a post about executive function and how important these skills are for our kids success in school and in life. Here are some tips for giving your kids lots of practice:

Help your child build a framework:

  • Helping your child set attainable goals and breaking tasks into achievable steps helps build executive function. Involved them in planning and adjusting and finding tools that support this process. For little kids it might be pictures that show how to get dressed and out the door, for teenagers it might be a planner!
  • Support planning and structure not only for school work but for out-of-school activities too like planning a garden, making a home video, making a present for a parent, preparing for a first job interview, etc… Make it fun!
  • Set limits and consequences and be consistent.

Child playing with legos demonstrating that play builds executive function

Keep technology in balance:

  • Reduce multitasking and distractions when focused attention is required. Give your child’s brain the space to practice executive function skills like focus, persistence, and self-control.
  • Choose high quality media that promotes problem solving and imagination.
  • As your kids get older, encourage them to make media, not just consume it.
  • Encourage kids to engage in low-tech activities that they love and that naturally boost executive function skills like cognitive flexibility, persistence, and focus. This can include games like Freeze Dance, Red Light/Green Light, Simon Says, imaginative play, and board games.
  • Encourage your kids to engage in sports, clubs, and other out-of-school activities that they seem interested in.

Help them regulate their emotions:

  • Nurture your connection with your children, from infancy through adolescence.
  • Name and share emotions.
  • Give them tools/strategies/model ways to manage emotional impulses like “calm your body,” “think before you post,” self-talk, deep breaths, and role playing tough situations.

Be a coach, not the main player:

  • Embrace mistakes and encourage experimentation.
  • Learn about the power of praise.
  • Support, don’t coddle.
  • Encourage, don’t rescue.