The Importance of Executive Function

Here are some awesome activities to strengthen Executive Functioning skills in ALL kids

For starters, what exactly is Executive Functioning?

Executive Function, or EF,  is a set of mental processes which allows us to manage, plan, organize, strategize, attend to, remember and initiate appropriately. Think of it as the brain’s task manager. The frontal lobe of the brain regulates these skills that help with optimal life functioning, in the same way that the conductor of a symphony orchestra organizes the various instruments, manages timing, integrates the music by bringing in and fading certain actions and controls pace and intensity. Pretty cool, right?

However, weaknesses in these skills often exist in children with learning or attention issues (ADD, for example), and will result in difficulties with various areas of functioning in every day life, from completing his school project to cleaning her bedroom. While these are cognitive functioning issues, children with difficulties in EF can be taught to overcome or work around them. It should also be noted that these deficits have absolutely nothing to do with intelligence or laziness! It’s simply a different way of thinking. Executive functioning skills continue to develop throughout the teenage years until about age 25, although symptoms may very well change with time.

Child intervention can provide the mental tools needed to:

  • self-monitor thoughts and behavior,
  • respond appropriately in social situations,
  • keep track of responsibilities,
  • stay focused, organised, and on-task,
  • keep academics demands under control.


There are plenty of great activities that can easily be implemented at home to encourage the development of EF skills. Read on for some fun ideas, or check out the link below for even more!

Activities to Develop Executive Functioning Skills


  1. Structure Simon Says: create a figure or structure from Play Dough, Blocks, or Lego, and have your child replicate it. This addresses skills including initiation, breaking down tasks, sequencing, organization and attention.


Image result for play dough monsters


2. Game Night: the following games target various key executive function skills: Rush Hour, Mastermind, Connect-4 Stackers, Swish, Chess, Set. These games require attention, concentration, working memory, visual-spatial processing, reasoning, planning and impulse control.
Image result for playing rush hour game
3. Kid in the Kitchen: let your child take over the kitchen! Allow him to choose a recipe from the cookbook, write up a list of necessary ingredients, assist you in shopping for required items and, lastly, do the actual cooking in an age appropriate manner. This can help to build initiative, organization, sequencing, time management, and planning abilities.
Image result for kid cooking
Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child has a page devoted to Executive Functioning skill building for babies through Young Adulthood. Check out this link for more of their suggestions on age appropriate activities to enhance these important skills.

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