THE EARLY YEARS
Building your child’s
executive function skills
can be done in fun ways
WRITTEN BY VALERIE BERENYIILLUSTRATED BY KIM SMITH
If a child is to soar in life—findingsuccess in school, work and relationshipsand enjoying good health—she’ll needsome specialized equipment to get offthe ground.
That flight gear is the set of social,emotional and cognitive skills calledexecutive function. While children aren’tborn with executive function, they allhave the potential to develop and honethese skills beginning in infancy andcontinuing through childhood and theteen years into early adulthood.
It may sound daunting, but it really is
child’s play. Building these skills can be
done in fun ways, woven into regular life
at home, in childcare and at school, using
time-honoured games such as peekaboo
or Simon Says.
The following games and activities forbuilding executive function in childrenare taken from Enhancing and PracticingExecutive Function Skills with Childrenfrom Infancy to Adolescence, a bookletpublished by the Harvard University’sCenter on the Developing Child.
Games for six- to 18-month-olds
Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man. Bake me
a cake as fast as you can. Pat it and prick it
and mark it with a “B.” Then put it in the
oven for baby and me!
Pat-a-Cake, a nursery rhyme datingfrom the 17th century, is a perfectexample of how “supportive, responsiveinteractions” with you, an adult, can helpa child create the foundation to buildworking memory and practise basic self-control. Simply having a conversationwith your baby boosts the same skills,as does finger-play (think: Itsy BitsySpider). And because babies are naturalcopycats, they learn beautifully fromimitation games (you cuddle a doll, thenpass it to baby to follow suit).