I often hear parents concerned about how many numbers, letters, or colours, their toddler can master – worried that this will reflect their ability to succeed as an adult. However there is something far more important that education specialists look for in young children, and that is Executive Function.
Executive Function, or the lack there of, is why some of the smartest people around may still fail the entrance interview for medical school, or move from job to job – unable to carve a path for themselves in a particular career. Executive Function is what makes average IQ children extra-ordinary. So what is it? Simply it can be broken down into four areas;
- Impulse Control: Think about the Marshmallow Test. This is the ability to hold back until the right moment. Not always act on everything that comes into your head.
- Attention: Ability to focus on one thing, or shift focus to where it is needed. In an advanced way, the ability to prioritise your time and energy on important things until they are complete.
- Working Memory: This is something we lose with age and should be continually worked on. It is also useful in warding off dementia. The ability to retain and use multiple ideas or images in your head.
- Planning: The ability to work through a series of actions to reach an outcome. Also, as with attention, the ability to adjust the series of actions if needed.
Top 10 Brain Boosting Games to help with Executive Function
Set up a series of different colour and/or shaped blocks in a particular order. Get your child to look at the blocks whilst you count to 10 or 20. Mix all the blocks up and get your child to put them back in the same order they were originally. You can try these blocks in our three year old gift box
What is missing?
Put a group of different objects together on a tray. Get your child to look at the objects for 10 – 20 seconds. Get them to turn around (or you can put a towel over them) and remove 1 object. Show your child the tray, can they figure out what is missing?
What is under the towel?
Just like the ‘what is missing?’ game, put a whole lot of different objects on a tray. Start with 3 or 4 objects, then make it harder as your child gets more practised. Let them look at the objects for 10 – 20 seconds. Pop a towel over the tray then get them to tell you all the things that were on the tray. How many can they remember?
Pop some textural and interestingly shaped objects in a bag. Get your child to feel in the bag and guess what an object is before they pull it out. You can use objects such as a toy car, ball, block etc
Well this really needs no explanation! Puzzles are great all round for patience and planning. We have heaps of puzzles like this one in our One Year Old gift box
There are not enough words in the English language to express how useful pretend play is. Play Doctor/Nurse, supermarket shopping, café etc. These all simulate real life environments, complete with challenges to overcome and new situations to navigate. We have a Pretend Play gift box or our Three Year Old gift box contains a very cool Dr/Nurse kit
Storytelling off the beaten path
Reading is fantastic for brain development, however you can take it a step further by drawing out even more from a story. Read one of your child’s favourite stories but as you go through you can talk about what is happening on each page. Don’t worry about the words so much, think about how the character is feeling, what else they may have done that day, what their favourite food may be, and so on. We have plenty of fantastic stories in our Book Boxes.
This is particularly great on a wet day…although you can do an outside course too. Set up cushions and chairs throughout the house for kids to crawl under and over or weave through. You can even set up little challenges along the way – like a spot of bowling, or hoop toss, or sack throw.
Warmer / Colder
Another great rainy or sunny day game as you can play this indoor or out. Take an object and hide it somewhere in a defined area. Then let your child try and find it. You can call out ‘warmer’ or ‘colder’ as they get closer or further away from it.
Fantastic game for learning attention and patience. Call out something for your kids to do such as “Simon says…touch your toes”. Make sure you have a gap between ‘simon says’ and the activity, this way your kids really have to wait and listen for the task.
What other games can you think of which might help Executive Function? Let us know below.