Activities to Develop Executive Functions

If you’ve read any of the following books, you’ll know how important executive function is for predicting a child’s future success in school and life:

What are Executive Functions?

If you haven’t read any of the above books, you might be wondering what are executive functions. Executive functions allow us “to control ourselves, to reflect deeply, and to consider things from multiple points of view.” They involve “paying attention, remembering what we need to remember to pursue our goals, thinking flexibly, and exercising inhibition.”

  • Paying Attention (focus) – allows us to concentrate so we can achieve our goals.
  • Working Memory – the ability to hold information in our minds while we are in the process of manipulating it so that we can relate what we are currently learning to what we have learned earlier.
  • Cognitive Flexibility – the ability to change the focus of our attention to meet new demands or priorities.
  • Inhibitory Control – “the ability to resist a strong inclination to do one thing and instead do what is most appropriate.” For instance, persisting with a project even after experiencing initial failure; or continuing to work on a project even when we’re bored with it.

How Can You Help Your Child Develop His Executive Functions?

This video shows an activity that helps children develop their executive function.

I don’t know about you, but the activity seems pretty similar to the following brain training exercises that are currently available on Lumosity:

1. Brain Shift

The instructions below are fairly self-explanatory. If the number in the top card is even, you click “yes”. If not, you click “no”. If the letter in the bottom card is a vowel, you click “yes”. If not, you click “no”. The challenge is to apply the right rule to the right card.

2. Colour Match

Similar to the stroop test with some differences. Two words of colours will appear. You need to take the meaning of the word in the box on the left and the colour of the words in the box on the right. If they match, you click “yes”. If no, you click “no”.

3. Disillusion

This game is a little more tricky. You are given jigsaw puzzle pieces with a coloured shape on its center. The puzzle pieces are either “vertical” or “horizontal”. If it is vertical, you must place it onto the board next to a puzzle piece with a shape of the same colour. If the puzzle piece is horizontal, you need to place it onto the board next to a puzzle piece with the same shape.

These games are all available on Lumosity. You can sign up for a free account that offers partial access to their brain training programs. These games are all under the “flexibility” category.

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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