Executive function: your child’s control center

Executive function: your child’s control center

Executive function (EF) is the mental process that enables us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully. 

We can distinguish between three components: Working Memory, Inhibitory Control, and Cognitive Flexibility. All 3 are interlinked and influence each other. 

As Executive Function develops mainly during the first 5 years of our lives, parents and teachers can support its development. 

What is it exactly?
Psychologist Deborah Phillips from Georgetown University, calls it the “air traffic control system” of our brain. Similar to the way an air traffic control system has to manage lots of airplanes departing and landing with perfect timing, we have to manage a lot of information and distractions simultaneously. Without good executive functions, disaster strikes. Let’s look at three different components:

How to support its development?
Executive function develops mainly during the first 5 years of our lives. 

A caring, playful, and nourishing childhood is our best bet to increase these skills. Free play trains a child’s inhibitory control, and in games, they can practice their working memory. Playing instruments trains the brain to process the notes and to coordinate the right and the left hand simultaneously. When speaking or playing with others, we learn to control our emotions. Movement is good as well. In football, each situation is new, ball possession requires quick decisions and builds cognitive flexibility. 

But even small things can make a difference. One study showed that kids who walked barefoot each day for just 15 minutes improved their working memory. The reason is that when children walk barefoot, they need to keep many things in mind.

Watch the Spouts video on Youtube:
Executive Function: Your Brain’s Control Center

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