January 2024 Newsletter – Promoting Executive Function Skills: Strategies to Build EF Skills for Teachers/Adults

Strategies to Build EF Skills for Teachers/Adults

The opportunity to care for and educate children can be extremely rewarding. At times, it can also be incredibly stressful! Teachers and adults who are stable and responsive provide the best kind of care for kids. These traits and more are found in an adult’s Executive Function. Moreover, similar to children, adults benefit from the practice of EF skills!

There are several ways to improve adult EF through reducing stress. Let’s look at three approaches:

  • Environmental Approaches
  • Individual Approaches
  • Collaborative Problem Solving

In Environmental Approaches, we are leveraging the environment to reduce stress for adults. For example, when families pick up children at the end of the day, it can be particularly challenging. As caregivers, we may try to reduce stress by collecting the child’s items – jacket, favorite toy, and backpack – and having them ready before the family arrives. This solution helps to make room for necessary EF skills – such as problem-solving – while reducing stress on the adults.

Second, with Individual Approaches, we think in terms of the individual and how we might assist them in responding differently when under stress. For instance, families may struggle with how to soothe a crying baby. In an individual approach, we could use the program newsletter to offer different strategies to use to soothe an infant. Another solution may be to coach parents about positive guidance practices and offer alternate ways to handle challenging situations at home. Both examples are ways to help families apply the EF skill of self-regulation to improve their lives.

Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS) is a third method to reduce stress and improve EF skills. CPS promotes working together to solve typical, day-to-day problems. When using CPS, the focus is on EF skill building rather than a focus on will. Motivators or “will” often do not work since there is a skill problem, not a motivation problem. CPS allows for opportunities to use self-awareness, self-discipline, and focus, among many other EF skills, in problem-solving. Throughout the day, adults will have lots of opportunities to practice using CPS to problem-solve.

Adults benefit from strengthening their EF skills, in part, by reducing stress and practicing. When an adult feels effective in their own life, not only do they create a better life for themselves, but for the children in their care as well.

For the main article Promoting Executive Function Skills, CLICK HERE

For the article Executive Function: What is it and why does it matter?, CLICK HERE

For the article The Science of EF: Building Better Lives, CLICK HERE

For the article Strategies to Build EF Skills for Children and Families, CLICK HERE

January 2024 Newsletter – Promoting Executive Function Skills: Strategies to Build EF Skills for Children and Families

Strategies to Build EF Skills for Children and Families

Children and families rely on Executive Function skills throughout the day. Infants need EF skills to hold eye contact with their caregiver. Toddlers need EF skills to get dressed in the morning. Preschoolers following a daily routine are using EF skills. For families, making decisions, recalling how something is done, and conducting work tasks require the use of EF skills as well.

The child’s EF skill development flows from interacting with the environment and adults and peers. There are various early childhood strategies to support children’s development of EF skills:

  • Visual Aids
  • Kinesthetic Method
  • Social Stories
  • Family Support

Visual learners benefit from aids that help children practice EF skills. For example, a daily schedule posted on the family child care wall, a checklist with 1- and 2-step directions, and well-organized learning centers are visual aids. With these visual aids, children are free to “do the thinking” and therefore practice EF skills required during play.

Kinesthetic learners benefit from the hands-on making and doing of tasks. These children gain knowledge by touching and manipulating materials to get the desired outcome. For example, sensory activities fit this bill. We can fill the sensory table with fake snow and allow children to experience, and ultimately learn, through hands-on experience with the materials.

Social Stories are effective for helping children understand tasks in bite-size pieces. Told from a child’s first-person perspective, Social Stories are like self-talk in guiding children through a process. Therefore, children gain EF skills, such as memory recall, from interacting with Social Stories over time.
Family Support also plays a pivotal role in helping children succeed in life through the development of EF skills. By setting up a home environment that includes a consistent routine, supportive and responsive relationships, play, and an understanding of Executive Functions, children will benefit. The home environment acts as a teacher, setting children up with many opportunities to practice and strengthen EF skills.

There are many best practices integrated into early childhood settings that are tied to EF skills. The inclusion of visual aids, kinesthetic methods, Social Stories, and family support are some examples. Through careful attention to strategies, we can help children to grow and master these skills.

 

For the main article Promoting Executive Function Skills, CLICK HERE

For the article Executive Function: What is it and why does it matter?, CLICK HERE

For the article The Science of EF: Building Better Lives, CLICK HERE

For the article Strategies to Build EF Skills for Teachers/Adults, CLICK HERE

January 2024 Newsletter – Promoting Executive Function Skills: The Science of EF: Building Better Lives

The Science of EF: Building Better Lives

Executive Functions are simply skills or tasks we need to cultivate to have a better quality of life for ourselves, our children, and our families! Although the term multi-tasking has come under some scrutiny, there are many times when it is necessary. Multi-tasking is when we act on many tasks all at once. For example, an adult may be helping a child dress, while making breakfast and packing their backpack. To carry out these “tasks” well, we need EF skills. These EF skills are essential for improving the quality of our lives.

Executive Function includes four components:

Inhibition, Interference Controls, Working Memory, and Mental Flexibility each of which includes a set of tasks to develop. As educators, we promote the mastering of these skills:

  • Selecting what we need to do when in a tug-of-war with what we want to do. (Inhibition)
  • Focusing solely on the task at hand. (Interference Control)
  • Pulling information from the past and applying it to the here and now. (Working Memory)
  • Thinking of diverse ways to solve a problem. (Mental Flexibility)

Here is a scenario that demonstrates the EF function of Inhibition. During block play, Tabitha, 4 years old, wants to negotiate with her friend for preferred blocks. When frustrated during negotiation, Tabitha raises the block to hit her friend. At that moment, she stops, brings her arm down, and chooses to use her words instead. Tabitha has successfully demonstrated that she can resist her impulses when not getting what she wants.

Another scenario demonstrates the EF function of Mental Flexibility. Ty, age 3, is creating a storefront in the dramatic play area. He wants to sell fruits and vegetables from the booth, unfortunately, most of the vegetables have gone missing. After unsuccessfully trying to locate the vegetables in other play areas, Ty has an idea: he decides to use materials from the art/writing center to create a few things like string beans, potatoes, and carrots. Ty is satisfied and now carries on selling both fruits and vegetables. Ty used creative thinking to shift his perspective and find another way to include vegetables by creating them.

Two other factors come into play in the science of EF. First, children do not naturally develop EF skills, rather children need to be guided in mastering EF tasks. Second, children who experience stress and trauma may have difficulty learning. In other words, stress can cause detours in children’s ability to develop EF. If we observe that a child is having difficulty with a developmentally appropriate EF skill, we can explore barriers to learning. We have a very important role in understanding how children learn and the barriers to learning. With that information, we can support children in building a better life.

 

For the main article Promoting Executive Function Skills, CLICK HERE

For the article Executive Function: What is it and why does it matter?, CLICK HERE

For the article Strategies to Build EF Skills for Children and Families, CLICK HERE

For the article Strategies to Build EF Skills for Teachers/Adults, CLICK HERE

January 2024 Newsletter – Promoting Executive Function Skills: Executive Function: What is it and why does it matter?

Executive Function: What is it and why does it matter?

Executive function is a newish catchphrase in early childhood. We see the term presented in curriculum materials and early learning standards, during professional development, and within online resources. But, what exactly does Executive Function mean, and more importantly, why does it matter?

There are four components that make up Executive Function (EF) Skills:

  • Inhibition – the ability to resist impulses and temptations and rather, set goals.
  • Interference Controls –the skill of staying focused on the task at hand.
  • Working Memory – the power to retain or manipulate information over short periods of time.
  • Mental Flexibility – the ability to think and apply creative solutions that meet the needs of ever-changing circumstances.

In other words, EF are brain skills or capabilities that we can develop which promote healthy development. Children are not born with EF but possess the potential to develop these skills – with our support and encouragement – over time. A hopeful message for adults too: EF skills can be improved at any age!

Children naturally apply EF Skills when promoted by the Teacher in a high-quality early childhood environment. For example, Toddler Teacher Jill plays the same video song daily before Gym Time. Jonas, aged 16 months, recognizes the tune and begins to sway his hips back and forth. He searches for a play instrument and pretends to play along while Teacher Jill responds with joy. Jonas is demonstrating two EF Skills: Working Memory and Mental Flexibility: He remembers the tune from listening to it each day and he creatively moves his body and plays an instrument to the music. High-quality experiences such as music and movement support the development of EF in young children.

Executive Functions are skills that can be developed over time and allow us to manage tasks in our lives more effectively making for a better life. Through careful preparation of the child’s environment with attention to developing EF Skills through both curriculum and instruction, we will support the child in flourishing.

 

For the main article Promoting Executive Function Skills, CLICK HERE

For the article The Science of EF: Building Better Lives, CLICK HERE

For the article Strategies to Build EF Skills for Children and Families, CLICK HERE

For the article Strategies to Build EF Skills for Teachers/Adults, CLICK HERE

January 2024 Newsletter – Promoting Executive Function Skills

Happy New Year! Some of you will begin the new year with a goal to improve in one way or another. As early childhood educators, children are near to our minds in all we do. We may not only want to improve ourselves, but also, make things better for the children and families in our care! This month’s newsletter is an opportunity to do just that by learning the latest information or refreshing older knowledge.

This month, we will discuss Executive Function (EF) skills, what they are, and why they are important. Additionally, the newsletter will explore strategies to utilize with children, families, and coworkers that will support the development of EF skills. EF skills are just like other developmental skills that benefit from consistency between the early childhood setting and at home, so be sure to share this information with families.

We are looking forward to starting the new year off with this important topic – Happy 2024 from the CCEI Team!

 

For the article Executive Function: What is it and why does it matter?, CLICK HERE

For the article The Science of EF: Building Better Lives, CLICK HERE

For the article Strategies to Build EF Skills for Children and Families, CLICK HERE

For the article Strategies to Build EF Skills for Teachers/Adults, CLICK HERE