July 05, 2018

Melissa Rosales

Executive Function Skills: The Concept Every Parent and Teacher Should Know

Topics: STEM Education / Play, Learning at Home, Learning Through Play, STEAM


It is not surprising that some parents and teachers wonder, "What are executive functions?" As science and neuropsychology advances, it is becoming more common in child development literature, however, many are still unsure what mental skills comprise this function and how to develop these skills in their children.

According to numerous research studies, executive function skills in children have been found to contribute to higher cognitive development overall. The objective of this blog post is to promote the development of executive functions, detail how to develop them in your own child, and explain their benefits.

Having executive functions allow a person to be independent with a goal-directed behavior. 

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These skills enable a wide-range of mental abilities including: organization, planning, anticipation, working memory, inhibition, self-evaluation and flexibility. Together they are important and necessary elements in solving problems efficiently. They are developed through intentional, novel, and non-routine activities that require sustained attention and habitual responses. Playing board games and sorting games are a couple great ways to develop these skills! For a more extensive list of activities for ages 3-18, read Activities to Improve Executive Function Skills.

Parents and teachers may ask themselves, "Is my child/student autonomous? Organized? How does he/she self-manage their emotions? Is he/she able to recognize the steps required to achieve a goal? Does he/she set goals?" Of course, every child is different and there will be variations in development, but these questions can help serve as a guide.


Ways to Develop Executive Function Skills

To help develop the mental processes in your child, here are some tips to implement at home and in the classroom:

  • Give children the opportunity to explore the world around them. This will contribute not only to their experience and stimulation but also to their emotional enrichment.
  • Share in experiences with your children. This help reduce the time they spend in front of technological objects and contribute to their cognitive and emotional development
  • Lead by example. Promote emotional self-management through your own behavior. For younger children it is normal to lose control and have tantrums, but older children should exhibit greater verbal expression and management of emotions.
  • Allow free play. This not only allows them relieve stress but also serves as an outlet for excess energy.
  • Provide a quiet environment without distractions. Quite time isn't just for doing homework, but also for quit playing, or relaxing. Try to make the house a space of tranquility.
  • Establish a routine. An environment that is somewhat predictable allows children to gain autonomy and feel more organized.
  • Encourage socialization. This includes socializing with you, other adults, and their peers.
  • Play Games. Games, which include board games, help with brain stimulation, the development of emotions, and emotional expression.



The Key Players

One of the most important elements in developing these skills is that adults are the best models of organization, planning, attention, self-control, memory, and other functions, for a child. As children interact with their parents, relatives, and teachers, they observe and learn to adequately develop these important functions.


Staying Informed

As a parent or teacher, staying informed about child develop will allow you to be more aware and better equipped to address various situations that may arise during the development of your children. Many research studies show that by evaluating the executive functions in children, scientists are able to more effectively determine the performance of a child within a school setting.




Melissa Rosales is a Psychologist, with postgraduate studies in Clinical Psychology and studies in neuropsychology. Emphasizes her professional practice by providing resources to parents and enriching the experience of children around the world through "Psicochamos" on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and its official website.



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