Co-authored by Philip David Zelazo, PhD, Stephanie M. Carlson, PhD, and Megan M. McClelland, PhD
In the next few weeks, millions of children across the United States will begin kindergarten. From public school to home school, and everything in between, parents, teachers and caregivers will do all they can to ensure that this transition into a formal school setting is as successful as possible. There are many factors that help determine this success, but one stands out as foundational to all the rest: executive function.
Executive function refers to the self-regulatory skills children need to manage attention, thought, emotion, and behavior in order to pursue goals. They are at the core of every child’s ability to do well in school, making it possible for a youngster to think flexibly and creatively, keep needed information in mind, and resist distractions.
As researchers who study children’s brain development, school readiness, and success in school, we are among many others who have demonstrated the importance of children’s executive function skills, particularly as they make the transition into more formal educational environments.
To aid parents and caregivers in supporting this healthy development, researchers who specialize in childhood brain development are working to bridge the gap between science and application. Books like “Einstein Never Used Flashcards” and initiatives like Vroom and Mind in the Making focus on helping parents and caregivers turn everyday moments like mealtime and bathtime into opportunities for strengthening executive function skills. By promoting supportive, reliable relationships between children and caring adults, communities can make a huge impact in preparing their early learners for success in school.
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