Committee for Children Blog

Executive Function: Important Skills for Childhood Development

executive-function skills

We’re not born with the executive-function skills we need to get things done, but the good news is these skills can be taught. Executive-function skills help us stay on task, make plans, set goals, and carry them out successfully—even when complex things are happening around us. They’re a set of three cognitive processes that include flexible attention, working memory, and inhibitory control. Although they are developed throughout childhood and adult life, executive-function skills have a critical window for growth between the ages of three and six.

By teaching these skills, educators can provide a crucial foundation for school readiness, academic achievement, and lifelong success. Children impacted by adverse experiences, including poverty, are at risk for compromised development of executive-function skills and can benefit from lessons that help develop them.

Executive functions form a foundation for self-regulation and help children build social-emotional skills. These skills make up three of the four self-regulation skills, which help people manage their thoughts, behavior, and emotions and help prepare preschoolers for a better transition to school.

The Second Step Program helps teachers develop these skills in children as early as preschool and helps students enter kindergarten with executive-function, self-regulation, and social-emotional skills. With the research-based Second Step Program, students are set up for success.

Explore these elements of the Second Step Program, which are designed to strengthen executive-function skills:

  • Brain Builders: These are fun, active games that build executive-function skills. Brain Builders can be played with large or small groups of early learners and are particularly useful for transitions between activities.
  • Listening Rules: Eyes watching, ears listening, voice quiet, body still. These rules support children’s ability to manage their behavior and attention while listening.
  • Attent-o-scope: This tool helps children focus their attention. Teachers also use it as an attention signal.
  • Self-talk: This is the Second Step Program’s language for private speech. Using self-talk supports children’s ability to focus attention, remember things, and manage their behavior. Most of the time young children do this out loud, whereas adults do it internally.

It’s clear that these skills are valuable in the classroom and throughout life. Explore these great resources to continue learning about executive functions and how the Second Step Program can help increase valuable executive-function skills.

To learn even more about executive-function skills, check out a new study and a couple of informative videos: