Blog: Weaving Executive Function Practice into Daily Life

Dr. Carey Heller; Licensed Psychologist in Bethesda, Maryland

Given that executive function skills (i.e., time management, organization, task initiation) are vital to successful functioning on a daily basis for children, adolescents, and adults, technically most people should by default be practicing using such skills on a regular basis. Nonetheless, for many children and teens, especially those who naturally struggle with these skills, they often rely on parents or other people to help them in situations where they should realistically be able to do things with greater independence.

Whether your child or teen struggles with executive function skills, or you simply want to help them to enhance the development of them, here are several ideas that you could implement at home before school starts to help practice skills in a fun way.

  • If your child or teen has limits on screen time (i.e., iPad games, tv shows), why not help them to maximize their time. To do this, encourage them to plan out what they are going to do during their allotted time. For example, if your child has one and a half hours of television time, suggest that they decide before the time starts which shows they are going to watch. By making choices ahead of time, and figuring out how long each show is, a child or teen can figure out how to fit the most amount of television shows into the allotted time without going over the limit and having to stop shows in the middle.
  • The same principle can be applied to video games if the games have an estimated length of time or if your child or teen wants to play multiple games within the allotted period.
    1. Getting your child or teen to write down the tv shows or games in a table, notes app, or other place along with the length of the show or amount of time that they wish to use a game for, will help them to visualize how they are going to be spending the time. It also helps them to plan how to fit in what they want and be finished by the end of the allotted time.
  • Help your child or teen to have a set place for specific toys or items such as shoes, baseball glove, etc. By helping them to designate a place, it gives them ownership in keeping track of their own things, and hopefully they will pick a place that is logical for them to remember. If needed, helping your child or teen remember where to put items by placing a sticky note in the place (for when the item has been removed) can be useful.
  • Encouraging children and teens to use automated reminders from computers, phones, personal assistants (i.e., Alexa, Google Home), and other similar items can be beneficial. With personal assistants, even four- or five-year-olds may have the capability to use verbal commands to set timers, reminders, etc. For younger children, sitting down and helping them set up reoccurring reminders through an app might be easiest. In addition, with many kids engaging in online learning, they will be in front of a computer a good part of the day. Therefore, this may be a perfect opportunity to get kids used to using an electronic calendar, task list, or other items to stay organized.

I hope these suggestions have been helpful.

Copyright 2020 Carey Heller, Psy.D.

*Disclaimer: The previous information is intended as general guidance based on my professional opinion, does not constitute an established professional relationship,  and should not replace the recommendations of a psychologist or other licensed professional with whom you initiate or maintain a professional relationship*

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