At Little Green House, we know that the brain is a pretty amazing thing, and executive function is a set of skills that helps us use it to its fullest potential. These skills include working memory, flexible thinking, and self-control, and we use them all the time to learn, work, and manage our daily lives.
When we have trouble with executive function, it can make it hard to focus, follow directions, and handle our emotions. Some people describe executive function as “the management system of the brain” because it helps us set goals, plan, and get things done. And when we struggle with executive function, it can impact us at home, in school, and in life.
So, what exactly are these executive function skills? Well, they come from three cognitive processes: cognitive flexibility, working memory, and inhibitory control. Cognitive flexibility helps us pay attention and switch tasks. Working memory lets us hold and process information. And inhibitory control helps us stop impulses and display appropriate responses.
These skills are important throughout life, and they start developing early. For example, children use cognitive flexibility when they switch from playing with blocks to joining their friends for storytime. They use working memory when they have to remember instructions for an art project. And they use inhibitory control when they have to take turns sharing toys.
At Little Green House, we believe in setting all children up for success by nurturing their reflection and executive function skills from the very beginning. We love learning from experts like psychologist Stephanie Carlson, who has some great insights on this topic in her TED talk:
Source: Filmed September 20th, 2020 at Mia in Minneapolis. Dr. Stephanie M. Carlson is a Distinguished McKnight University Professor at the Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota, and is Co-founder and Chief Science Officer at Reflection Sciences, Inc. Dr. Carlson is an internationally recognized leader in the study of executive function (brain basis of self-control) and her current research focuses on ways to help promote executive function through reflective practices in play, parenting, and preschool curricula. She has been an advisor to Sesame Workshop, Understood.org, Noggin, Bright Horizons Family Solutions, and Minnesota Children’s Museum. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.