Executive Skills are what help us, as human beings, to meet challenges and accomplish goals. We can decide which activities will get our attention and which activities we will choose to do. We use these skills to delay immediate gratification in order to accomplish long-term goals. Executive skills help us to plan, organize and manage our time and materials. Working Memory is an executive skill that helps us hold information in our mind while performing complicated tasks. Working Memory also includes drawing on past experience to apply to a present problem or to project that learning onto strategies for the future. The ability to stand back and monitor your own behavior and actions is an executive skill – it help us to ask, “How am I doing?” “What worked?”
There is a parallel between the development of the brain and development of a child’s ability to act, think and feel. This is important in understanding how a child’s executive skills develop. Although the Pre-frontal Cortex makes up the neurological base for executive skills, other parts of the brain are involved as well. The Pre-frontal Cortex, the last area to fully develop in late adolescence, is the final common path for managing information and behavior.
How do you teach young children executive skills? What should they be able to do and when should they be able to do it?
You can help your child in Grades 3 – 5 by asking him/her to:
- Run errands (time delayed like remembering to do something after school)
- Tidy bedroom or playroom (May include vacuuming and dusting)
- Perform chores that take 15-30 minutes (Clean up after dinner, Rake leaves)
- Bring books, papers, assignments to and from school
- Complete Homework Assignments (1 hour MAXIMUM)
- Plan simple school projects such as book reports (Choose book, Read book, Write report)
- Keep track of changing daily schedule (different activities after school)
- Save money, plan how to earn money
- Inhibit/self-regulate: Behave when teacher is out of room, Good manners, Don’t make rude comments