Do You Need to Teach Kids About Executive Function? Can It Even be Done?
Executive function skills… The term sounds like something a professional does, in their career at work or even something the government would do. Right? You might be surprised to know executive function skills are an inherent part of everyone’s brain operation. Even infants have the capacity for executive function.
Executive function skills are also largely responsible for most decisions you will make in your lifetime.
So what is executive function and what are executive function skills?
Executive function skills are those cognitive skills a person uses to complete any task. Executive function in general, encompasses everything from the decision to begin a project, to planning and taking all the necessary steps for each task in the project, and then finishing each task until the project is complete.
For example, a kid getting ready for school needs to consider the temperature outside. Then, they need to think about whether there are any special activities or events at school that day that require specific attire. Next, it’s looking at what clothes are clean (and pressed, if necessary). But it’s also what tops and bottoms go together and coordinate. And of course, they must consider what they want to wear.
As mentioned in the intro, even infants have the capacity for executive function. These skills are just primitive and undeveloped. Of course, as they grow from adolescence to adulthood, the importance and significance of high executive function skills will dramatically increase. Decisions will become more important and the consequences of poor decisions, more impactful. The good news is these skills get better over time with practice and use.
Thus, it’s a good idea to teach children – from as young as possible – how to use their executive function skills. This way, as with any other skill, they hone their executive function skills over time.
What are some ways you can help your kids improve their executive function skills?
Completing chores, homework, and even saving money, require executive function skills. If your child has a problem finishing tasks in time, trouble finishing them wholly or well, or even estimating how long a project will take, they may need help with their executive function skills.
The common theme with all these areas, is time management. Thus, helping your kids learn to manage their time better is a huge assist in improving executive function skills—something that will help them with life in general, now and in the future.
The most important part of time management is knowing exactly what needs to be done, how long it will take, and the amount of time available. The following apps can make helping your kids improve time management much easier:
Timers are great for helping kids with time management. They help them visualize – and conceptualize – time. They learn to understand what time is available, how long specific tasks take, and how to minimize distractions to “beat” the timer. Eventually, they begin to learn to manage their time without the timer. Even though, the use of timers for time management is suggested even for adults!
My Video Schedule is a time management app specifically created for special needs kids and adults. However, it does have applicability for kids – and even teens – in general. The app includes photo and video modeling, as well as a reward system built in to the app for completing tasks such as brushing teeth. Custom photos and videos can be added. Since many kids are visual learners, this could be a valuable app to add to your arsenal.
If your kid has trouble staying focused or paying attention, this app could be a Godsend. Kids can create customized timers and stopwatches. They can even make alarms with their own ringtones and add their own photos, icons, and images to them as well. This app simply makes time management fun!
While no app is going to be the end-all-be-all for teaching kids time management, apps can be beneficial. Additionally, they make the learning of this skill more fun. Then, once kids have become better managers of their time, their overall executive function skills will improve too. This is truly a skill that will help them not only now, but long into the future.