If you’ve looked into child development, you’ve probably come across the phrase “executive function.” When we think of an executive, we often picture a CEO or business leader who is taking charge. That’s similar to what it means in the child development world.
Executive functions are skills that helps us do pretty much everything. They help us turn big tasks into smaller, manageable pieces. They also help us organize, create strategies, hunt for details and learn from our mistakes. Ultimately, they are the skills that help us make decisions. Children with poorly developed executive functioning skills struggle with tasks like getting dressed, basic hygiene, completing homework assignments, etc.
These functions begin early on. You can see them develop in your child. When a baby learns that pushing a ball makes it roll across the room, he’ll want to do it repeatedly. He’s using an executive function (push to make ball move). He has become aware that he can visualize a behavior in his thoughts before acting out physically, which teaches him to plan and consider.
While executive skills are somewhat abstract (they’re harder to teach than, say, how to lift a bottle or how to open one’s mouth when food is incoming), they can still be taught. You just have to give your child lots of opportunities to practice and reward them when they used their skills well. Here are some ways you can help.
1. Create a planner
When your child gets to the age of having homework assignments, or you give them regular chores, a planner is a big help. Often just the act of writing down their assignments or making a note of something is enough to embed the tidbit in their mind.
2. Develop a reward system
Like many things, executive functions can be improved when they are rewarded. It’s hard to motive your child to practice a skill they don’t understand, so you have to create something external to give them when it seems like they carefully thought about an action before taking it. For example, if you notice your child examine the label on the outside of a box before placing her toy within, you can surmise that she considered whether the toy belongs there before putting it away. Reward with something small, but tangible, like a sticker.
3. Create checklists
Kids without developed executive functioning skills can be overwhelmed by large tasks with many steps. Orders like “Get ready for school” can be difficult and cause emotional stress. A checklist minimizes the tension by laying out the steps nicely so your child can focus on each one individually. Make a checklist for everyday tasks, like getting ready for bed or tidying up one’s room.
4. Establish (and stick to) a routine
By creating a routine, you take the decision making away and let them focus on the smaller executive functioning skills first. For example, your child might have trouble when you ask him to tidy up his room, but if you insist he steps 5 minutes every evening doing it, eventually the “pain” of the experience fades and he can focus on each task at hand. Rather than worrying about what to do next, he’ll know that now is the time to organize the books, or now we put the stuffed animals in the box.
Written by Lisa Youngelson, Owner of Zippyz
Like most new moms, Lisa had been up night after night changing her newborn son’s diaper. She was so exhausted she could barely function, let alone match up the tiny snaps on her baby’s pajamas.
Frustrated by endless mis-snapping and re-snapping, Lisa found zippered pajamas, and thought her problems had been solved. That night when she unzipped her son’s pajamas, he started to cry from the shock of cold air. Although less time consuming, Lisa hated that she had to expose her baby’s entire body with the zipper. She felt her baby’s comfort should come first and yearned for the perfect footed pajama, which was both soft and cozy for her baby and hassle-free for mommy.
One night while feeding her son she thought of “Zippyz.” Zippyz are patented footed baby pajamas for easy and fast diaper changes with 3 snaps on the chest and a zipper from foot to belly. Finally, a solution suitable for baby AND mommy! Plus Zippyz are a unique baby shower gift! Along with her best friend and business partner Erica, Lisa decided make the diaper changing world a better place for all new parents!
For more information, visit www.shopzippyz.com.
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