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Building Executive Functioning Skills In Children 

What is Executive Functioning?

The frontal lobe (under your forehead) is responsible for your executive functioning skills, which include planning, sequencing, organizing, analyzing, working memory, shifting from one task to another, initiating and completing tasks, chunking large tasks into smaller ones, and remaining focused.

What does it look like if my child is struggling with this issue?

Students might struggle getting homework done and then returned to school.  Concentration and focus are difficult.  Getting work started and being able to organize it into well written sentences can feel very laborious.  Students might forget directions, not have the materials needed for activities/tasks, and will last minute drop it on you that a huge project is due tomorrow.  Some students might show struggles with transitions (summer to school, weekend to weekday, task to task). 

Is this permanent?

Executive functioning is widely researched and the research reflects that the brain has neuroplasticity (ability to change and build new pathways) throughout our lifetime.  Just like any skill, these skills can be practiced and practiced until the pathways become active and engaged within the brain. 

What can we do at home to help?

Glad you asked.  Here are some suggestions for home!

YOUNGER STUDENTS (Kindergarten to Second Grade)

  •         Chores:  Allow your child to have a chore to do daily.  Discuss and practice the steps to the chore.  Model it for them.  Even make a check-off or to-do list for the chore if needed.

·         Let your child draw pictures of the stops you will have (for example, we are going to the library, then then store, then home to play) on small index cards.  Have them put them in order and have them tell you which stop is the next one. 

·         Do homework at the same time every night and at the same location. Have a quiet work space with limited distractions (like the TV).


·         Watch movies or TV shows and talk about what came first, last, and in the details from the middle.


Elementary Age Students (3rd grade through 6th)


  •   Have a clean work space.  Do homework at the same time every night and limit distractions (like TV on nearby).

·         Chunk work out into smaller pieces.  Good ways to do this is to cover up parts of the work and focus on small pieces  or help them pull apart a task into smaller chunks (research paper – 1. Do research       2. Write down facts 3. Outline 4. Write assignment).

·         To Do Lists or Check Sheets (helps divide out tasks into smaller pieces and also helps increase organization).

·         Get bins at home for things in their room – clothing bins, toys, books.  Help them organize their items to help support a clean room.

·         Model good habits.  Talk out how you organize your day, how you use your planner/scheduler, show how you create lists, etc.

·         Use a planner for their academic and social tasks.