Ways to Help Kids Develop Executive Functioning Skills

executive functioning skills for kids

As parents, we all want the very best for our little ones. We want to see them grow into strong, intelligent, productive adults. So we try to teach them everything we know and provide them with the best activities and education we can. But out of all the skills your child needs to learn and develop, one of the most essential is executive functioning skills.

These skills control the other skills your child already has, and are also which will help them develop future skills. They also help little ones do better in school, get along with their peers more easily, and feel more confident about themselves. So developing executive functioning skills is crucial in helping them grow into well-adjusted adults.

However, developing your child’s executive functioning skills can be pretty difficult. It’s not something you can do by sheer will or even by trying to be the best parent you can be. It won’t happen unless you take several specific steps to help your child develop.

What Are Executive Functioning Skills?

Executive functions are skills that allow you to function in your daily life. They are self-regulatory skills that deal with setting goals and planning, working memory (that’s why you can read this article right now!), and regulating behavior. These skills are the keys to unlocking your potential to do great things.

These skills aren’t always easy for children to develop. That’s why we as parents need to provide them with developmental activities that help them develop these skills as they grow. These activities should be fun and interesting, but should also be age-appropriate. If you’re thinking of having your kids do something too advanced for them or something that might not be fun, think about whether that fits into their developmental skill set.

Why are Executive Functioning Skills Important?

how to develop executive functioning skills in kids

Executive functioning skills are important, because they’re vital to your kid’s success in school, work, and life. The more advanced these skills are, the better your child will be at everything from planning for the future to remembering what was said during a conversation.

These skills can also help your kids manage their emotions and handle stressful situations. They will help them solve problems effectively and handle conflicts with others. If they’ve trained these skills through specific developmentally appropriate activities, they are likely to make better decisions throughout the day. As they grow older, this kind of behavior is important — job interviews or meetings in college, or even money management.

The 7 Types of Executive Functioning Skills

There are seven different types of executive functioning skills, and these are the kinds that are critical for your kids to develop. These skills include:

  1.  Working Memory: The ability to retain information while doing something else.
  2.  Emotional Control: The ability to identify emotions, manage them, and prevent them from disrupting one’s functioning.
  3. Planning: The ability to plan an activity or manage details.
  4. Time management: Managing time and being on task. It includes the ability to deal with interruptions, completing work, etc. 
  5. Flexibility: The ability to adjust quickly to new situations and environments.
  6.  Self-Monitoring: The ability to self- evaluate the performance of a specific task and make necessary changes to accomplish the task at hand.
  7.  Organization: Being able to organize and maintain the organization in one’s environment.

6 Ways to Help Kids Develop Executive Functioning Skills

Here are six different ways to help your child develop these skills. Pick a few ways you think are best for your kid, and try them out. You can always modify them or add in other activities to help your kid go beyond their developmental skills.

1. Establish a Routine

developing executive functioning skills in kids

Establishing a routine can be another great way to help kids develop executive functioning skills. It can help your child feel more organized, calmer, and less overwhelmed by life’s demands. The key is to make the routine age-appropriate and fun.

The first step to establishing a routine is to prepare a list of the things your child does every day. It could be just about anything from eating breakfast to reading a book, playing with your kid’s toys, or going on a walk. Next, break down the each thing into smaller chunks. Have them complete the smaller chunks one at a time, with small increments in between. For example:

“Bathroom – Brush Teeth three times.”

“Bathroom – Wipe Brow three times.”

“Bathroom – MouthWash”

Once they’ve completed that piece, they can move on to the next one on their list. The key here is to break tasks down into bite-sized pieces that are realistic and age-appropriate.

2. Set Limits

Setting limits is an important part of helping kids develop capacities for self-control. Kids with great executive functioning skills know how to set their limits, while those still developing this skill tend to get carried away with their thoughts and emotions.

To help your child develop these skills, you can set up specific times or situations in which your child knows they should not respond or react. You can set up times or situations in which you only have one rule, and that’s it — whether it’s silence while the movie is on or only three pieces of candy for Halloween. When you allow your child to decide how they want to respond, it helps them develop their self-control and pushes them to think about their emotions and decide what’s best for them.

3. Teach Kid How To Recognize Emotions

Teaching your kid how to recognize emotions and control them can be a crucial part of helping kids develop executive functioning skills. If your kid recognizes what’s going on in their mind, body, and surroundings, they can make decisions more effectively. It also helps them feel more in control of themselves.

To help your child with emotions, you can start talking about them. You can discuss what different emotions look like. For instance, when a child is angry, their fists may clench as well as their face and facial features. Later on, you can talk about what different emotions feel like. For example, when a child is happy, they might bounce up and down in their seat and smile often. When your child recognizes these things, they can start to make the connection between their thoughts, body, and emotions.

4. Praise Your Child Regularly

Praising your kids can encourage them to feel good about their accomplishments and help them develop their self-esteem. But it’s also important that you praise your kids for taking pride in their work or progress toward their goals — not every other thing they do.

Don’t wait for your kid to do something great to praise them. If you notice your child is in a down mood or isn’t enjoying an experience, redirect them toward something else. You don’t want to encourage your kids to put on a different mask when you’re around, and only praise their good behavior.

5. Encourage Creative Play

executive functioning skills in kids

Encouraging creative play is a great way to help kids develop their executive functioning skills. They’re figuring out how to build, create, and problem-solve during creative play. They’re forming unique ideas and thinking outside the box in the process.

If you want to encourage your child’s creativity, try giving them the chance to get their hands messy with fun projects that they can do on their own or with friends. You can also give them a project and let them decide how they want to complete it. — If they need your help along the way, that’s fine, as long as they know what you want them to do.

6. Play Games

Playing games can be another great way to help kids with executive functioning skills. In a game, there are rules and structures to help them figure out how things work and what they need to do. It can be a great way for your child to learn how to problem-solve and organize their thoughts and thoughts of others.

Games are an excellent way for little ones to work on their problem-solving and planning skills, because they require them to think about the strategies that will get them what they want. For instance, if you’re playing Candy Land with your kid, they have to ask themselves questions like, “Where do I want to go? How can I get there? What cards will I need to help me?”


Executive functioning skills are an important part of growing up, and they can help your kids grow into well-rounded teenagers.

By working on these skills, you can help your kid develop coping strategies that help them manage anxiety and difficult emotions in a healthy way. They’ll also be better able to recognize the emotions triggering their impulses and self-control, so they won’t do things without thinking or putting themselves in dangerous situations. These skills also help your child, as they’ll help them make better decisions and take care of themselves, improving their quality of life.

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