FREE shipping on all UK orders over £30 & FREE returns

Day 20 - Executive functions

Day 20 - Executive functions

When faced with familiar situations, we don't have to think too hard. We have a mental map, a schema, for how a ball will drop because of hours spent testing this out as children. And we instinctively recoil from spiders. Our ancestors learnt to do that to survive.

But what about those situations where we have to override our instincts or tackle something new? We can't rely on past experiences. We have to resist the quick response and stop to work things through in our minds.

We need to use our executive functions.

No, these aren't something you do in an office. They're a set of capabilities that allow us plan, to set goals, to resist temptation and to stay on task.

How does all this apply to early childhood?

These skills take years to develop and some don't fully mature until adulthood. But we can make a start even in infancy. Here are three to try:

Working memory: Learn actions to nursery rhymes. This even works for babies, who can't sing the words or perform the actions but are able to anticipate the exciting part. For example, the tickle at the end of 'This little piggy went to market'

Self-regulation: We can learn to take turns and regulate our impulses by playing games with others. Board games and sport are great for this.

Cognitive flexibility: Play a familiar game but change the rules. Sing heads, shoulders, knees and toes, but touch the opposite body part, so toes for head, knees for shoulders and head for toes.

As ever with this 30-day series, the theory sounds more complicated than the reality. Play a few games, and occasionally change the rules for added fun. That's it.


Here's the rest of the series:


Day 1 - Theories of Development

Day 2 - Stages of Play

Day 3 - Play is Multisensory

Day 4 - Gender-Neutral Toys

Day 5 - The Zone of Proximal Development

Day 6 - Heuristic Play

Day 7 - Spot the Difference

Day 8 - Sorting

Day 9 - Schemas

Day 10 - Ask good questions

Day 11 - Conservation

Day 12 - Seriation

Day 13 - Observation

Day 14 - Set a good example

Day 15 - Fewer toys = more focus

Day 16 - The Hundred Languages of Children

Day 17 - Plan-do-review

Day 18 - Practical life

Day 19 - Free-flow play

Day 20 - Executive functions

Day 21 - Spaced repetition

Day 22 - Independent play

Day 23 - Project-based Learning

Day 24 - The Environment As The Third Teacher

Day 25 - Start With The Child

Day 26 - Symbolic Play

Day 27 - Learning To Write

Day 28 - Blocks: the indispensable toy

Day 29 - Outdoor Learning

Day 30 - Play

September 10, 2018 By Alexis Ralphs

Toy Box Essentials

« previous / next »

Leave a comment

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published.

We use cookies to ensure you're getting the best experience on our website. Learn More

I Agree