If you’ve heard that executive functions cannot change over time, you’d be wrong! Executive functions are plastic, which means that they can indeed be improved through a number of unique strategies. These can be broken down into individual skills in order to focus on specific brain training. What’s great about boosting executive functioning skills is that they are very generalizable and can be applied all throughout life. Skills such as flexibility, self awareness, focus, self control, organization, planning, time management, and working memory are essential to school success and achieving goals.
Here at LearningWorks for Kids, we have a number of courses that help to transform children’s video game play into learning executive functioning and socio-emotional skills. Our programs target training for specific skills with engaging apps, games, and technology to pave the way.
In other settings, school-based programs such as SMARTS ( Strategies, Motivation, Awareness, Resilience, Talents, Success) teach skills to improve organization, homework completion and focus. Additionally, executive-functioning coaches such as the highly qualified team at Beyond BookSmart can help kids to improve a variety of executive functions.
Simply put, by taking routine activities such as video games, sports, or chores and leveraging them to create modest improvement in specific areas, executive functioning skills can be improved overall.
Wondering about your child’s executive functioning skills? Take our EF Quiz for some more insight.
Transforming your typical daily activities into an executive functioning training field will take some preparation and foresight. Ultimately, the key to this learning will be to identify what is being learned, to think about it, and to consider how to apply the lessons to other settings. At LearningWorks for Kids, we call this process Detect, Reflect, and Connect. In guiding students, good teachers use similar teaching strategies. They engage the attention of students, help them to recognize what they are learning, assist them in becoming more thoughtful about their learning, and encourage them to practice what they have learned. Taking inspiration from these principles will help you the growth of executive functioning in your routines.
There is compelling evidence that vigorous physical exercise alone, without any of our teaching efforts, can temporarily improve executive-functioning skills. With the LW4K method of Detect, Reflect, and Connect, engaging in sports can be extremely effective!
To train the skill of focus, encourage children to take up sports in which persistence or sustained effort are crucial to improvement. There are many sports where natural ability alone does not suffice for good performance. Specific athletic actions, such as shooting free throws in basketball or performing a skateboard trick, require sustained attention and effort for improvement. Sports such as golf, diving, and archery are among many where both intense focus and being able to tune out distractions are necessary to maximize performance. These types of sports require players to focus on the single task they are working on at the time. Other sports such as martial arts and yoga incorporate certain breathing techniques that can enhance focus and concentration, as well. Being able to internalize and repeat directions themselves, in particular, helps children to improve their focus.
Kids learn through play, and twenty-first century children are playing lots of video games. With structure and guidance, children can learn to apply the skills they’re developing through digital play across other areas of their lives. LW4K has a host of courses utilizing video games to improve executive functions. Work on planning skills through building an aquarium in Minecraft, develop flexibility through playing Pokémon Legends: Arceus, or utilize working memory by keeping track of everything going on in Fortnite.
Video games can have a positive impact on cognition and executive functioning when structured well within a child’s routine. Continue to Detect, Reflect, and Connect to apply the lessons learned through digital play into real-world experiences!
Engaging in the arts can do wonders for the thinking skills and executive functions of children. Recent research suggests that arts education can directly support the growth of these essential abilities. When engaging in performance arts such as theater, dance, or music, a high level of developed motor control, self awareness, coordination, and working memory are essential. Additionally, persistence and focus are needed to practice these arts in order to improve. For visual arts, children engage in deep focus. Consider building some structure around arts projects, and supporting planning and organization through gathering materials and developing a plan for a project with your child. Having a particular end goal for a creation can be a great motivation to develop an organized, step-by-step plan. You can help your child stick to this plan and see the tangible results with their project!
Learn more about how LearningWorks for Kids can help:
Our team at LW4K can help your child learn how to practice and support working memory skills. Sign your child up for a few of our classes. You’ll see how having fun playing with games and apps can be transformed into learning the most critical skills for 21st-century kids. Beyond working memory and executive functions, we also have plenty of classes that also address social-emotional skills.
Learn more about EFs and ADHD:
What are Executive Functions? – LearningWorks for Kids
Executive Functions – South County Child and Family Consultants
ADHD Toolkit – CHADD
ADHD / Executive Functioning Evaluations – South County Child and Family Consultants