Winter 2015 Health Link Online

HealthLink Online

Uniting Children, Parents, Caregivers, and Health Professionals

Executive Function Skill-Building

Executive Function Skill-Building

Many indoor and outdoor activities help children’s brains and bodies grow.  They can provide large and small muscle physical activity children need.  Activities can help children make friends, be creative and control their actions. Also, activities can enable children to use information they’ve learned before to learn new things, focus and think through ideas before acting on them. These processes are called the “executive functions" of the brain. The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University  compares executive functions to air traffic control at a busy airport. The link to the Center on the Developing Child  is

The website of the Center on the Developing Child has a 16-page guide about ways to help children learn executive function. Teachers/caregivers can use the instructions to choose age-appropriate activities and games for children from infancy through adolescence.  The guide includes many physical activities. It lists some quieter activities that develop attention skills that help children think through the options rather than acting immediately.

The guide suggests activities by age groups:

  • For infants - lap games, hiding games, imitation activities, role play, finger plays and conversations
  • For toddlers- ball catch/throw, floor level balance beam, running up & down an incline, jumping, games with rules for taking turns, imitation games, games that require attention to stop or move, songs with gross motor movement or finger play, matching/sorting games
  • For 3-5 year olds - imaginary play, movement challenges with songs, matching/sorting and story-telling
  • For school-age children - games that combine movement with songs, certain types of organized sports, physical activities that combine mindfulness and movement, and games that require coordination while providing aerobic exercise.