The basement was a complete mess. Boots, coats, scarves, and hats were strewn all over the floor — right next to the shelves and hooks on which they belonged. When I told my kids to bring their things to the basement, I wasn’t specific enough, I guess.
I didn’t help them scaffold and build their executive functioning skills and so, while I was frustrated, it was mostly with myself.
What is Executive Function?
The official definition of executive functions is that they are a set of processes that have to do with managing oneself and one’s resources in order to achieve a goal. It is an umbrella term for the neurologically-based skills involving mental control and self-regulation.
To help your child develop proper executive function skills you must be willing to allow your child to fail.
You need to give your kiddo a chance to figure things out for himself. If your child is attempting something that you know he can do then step back. However, this needs to be balanced with helping when necessary so the child doesn’t get too frustrated.
Basically, parent your child to be autonomous.
Activities for Young Children to Aid Executive Function Skills
Ask your child explain or teach you something. When you know something well enough you can teach it to someone else. This skill shows not only understanding of order but memory. Pick something simple such as making a sandwich or how to wash a dish.
Play games. Games provide an opportunity to exercise memory, order, and following rules in a low stress and fun way.
Use a multisensory approach when assigning tasks. Orally explain task such as a bedtime routine to your child. If your child is old enough to read, then write the routine down. If not, create a pictorial routine. You may want to explain the routine while playing hopscotch or throwing a ball back and forth.
Encourage flexible thinking. Take an ordinary object and ask your child what it can be used for. Try to encourage your child to come up with as many out of the box ideas as possible.
Use simple worksheets to practice following directions. Puzzles, activities, and worksheets help little ones scaffold their direction following so that they can eventually follow multi-step directions without getting hung up. Try simple worksheets like the one below to practice on. (You can download your own copy of this worksheet for free by clicking the download now button and entering your email address. It will come right to your inbox.)
Wordplay. Another way to encourage flexible thinking is with wordplay. You can create puns, read Amelia Bedelia books together, or tell silly jokes.
Encourage organization simply. If your child has a terrible time keeping her room organized, then provide simple solutions. Provide supply caddies and tote boxes that are clearly marked. For instance, put stuffed animals in one tote and shoes in another or whatever works for you. Use a supply caddy for art supplies so your child can easily see when something is out of place and correct it.
Simple steps that are visual can help a child practice organization.
Got any other tips for teaching little ones executive functioning skills? Share in the comments.
For more great parenting tips check these out:
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