Executive Functioning skills are skills needed to take a task from beginning to the end. With a child,this could be as simple as cleaning up they room, finishing a chapter book, responding to a question in class or remembering to take their lunchbox home. Easy, right? Sometimes yes, but often these tasks that seem automatic to adults are difficult for children. This does not mean the child is lazy or careless. This could mean that the area of their brain that works on the particular area of executive functioning is not fully developed yet.
Let’s take a quick moment to think about a child’s brain. Most executive functioning tasks happen in the frontal lobe. There are a few times in a child’s life when there is rapid growth and brain development. There is a time right around the age of eleven or twelve that the brain goes through a stage that there is great growth in grey matter, made of up neurons, never sells and synapse, in the brain. Right after the growth of grey matter, there is a time of pruning. This time in a child’s education and life are crucial for brain development and executive functioning skills. The “use it or lose it” phrase can be applied here. Since the frontal lobe is still developing during the pre-teen years, it is important for children to use this area of the brain to practice their executive functioning skills. The practice not only allows the student to learn important skills such as time management and organization, but it also allows their brain to make deeper connections. Did you know that your pre-frontal cortex isn’t fully developed until you are in your early twenties? No wonder so many children and teenagers struggle with decision making, planning and impulse control! It is our job as educators and parents to fill in as their frontal lobes while their own frontal lobes are still developing.