My long-time readers know that I used to be a preschool teacher and loved it. I always assumed that if I became a parent, that I'd automatically do lots of interactive educational activities. I could not have been more wrong! I really underestimated how busy I would be – too busy to plan official activities to do with Melanie that encourage learning executive function skills at home. So, imagine how happy I was to learn that so many of those skills were already naturally being taught in my every day interactions with her! Woot! Slacker mom parenting for the win! All joking aside though, it was really cool to see that Melanie was developing while at home. Read on for how you can learn to encourage executive function skills at home!
So, I know you're wondering and I'll answer your question before you've even asked! What exactly are executive function skills? These are the skills that enable people to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully. For example, it used to be that when Melanie would ask me for some cheese, she'd start grabbing at it the second that I got it out of the fridge. But now, she waits patiently for me to unwrap it and hand it to her. That self-control is an executive function skill and a huge stepping stone in a child's developmental journey.
As a mom, it's really important to me that Melanie (and later Finn) begin to learn the 6 executive function skills – adaptability, teamwork, problem solving, critical thinking, self-control, and memory – while they are little. While Melanie has a natural lean toward memory skills (she plays a mean game of memory). But, due to our isolated neighborhood and my busy job, she definitely needs to work on her teamwork. I've been taking her to story time at the library to help. In addition to that activity, I've also been having her help me load the dishwasher to encourage teamwork. Whenever she plays with her best friend, Sebastian, his mom and I like to pull out a game or craft that further encourages that skill. For example, we'll have them do puzzles together since they must talk to each other and communicate in order to complete it.
Melanie's self-control has been an issue since she was born. She's extraordinarily strong-will – which is a GREAT trait but also… not. We've tried tons of different theories and practices to help her develop self-control (and avoid meltdowns). Lately, we've noticed that giving her two choices when it comes to making decisions helps her to feel in control and develop that skill even more. For example, if she's fighting bedtime, I'll ask if she wants Mommy or Daddy to help her get ready. Most of the time, she'll choose someone and settle right down. After all, it can be tough being a kid and not making most of the decisions in your life. Plus, there's been less temper tantrums which – HAIL, am I right?
If you're interested in developing your child's executive function skills during their early education years then you'll definitely want to check out this infographic and video from Primrose Schools to help you better understand these skills now. As busy as mom life can be, there are few things more valuable than investing in your children’s future.