Executive Functioning

Executive functioning is a pivotal cognitive development that allows for the execution of diverse and complex mental abilities. Executive functioning serves as the basis off which processes such as reasoning, working memory, attention control, and planning originate. These processes are hugely influential in developing the mental functioning of children while setting the stage for future learning.

Fast Facts

1. Executive functioning allows for increased mental flexibility, allows for planning, focusing, memory, and multitasking to take place.

2. Within the first few years of a child’s life, their brain is rapidly developing executive functioning.

3. Self-regulation is a product of the development of executive functioning, it allows for us to make healthy and positive decisions.

4. Executive functioning and self-regulation are closely interlaced with working memory, mental flexibility, and self-control.


In Depth Look

Developing executive functioning has lifelong benefits and positions children to be fully functional and successful adults later in life. The development of self-regulation as well as learning abilities is crucial for a fully developed brain. Without developing executive functioning children are at greater risk for developing toxic stress and struggling with learning later on. Children are able to start developing these skills once they are born, as previously mentioned both genetics and external environment are responsible for brain development in children. Without regular and varied interaction with their caregivers, children are less likely to develop the needed executive functioning abilities causing their overall development to be stunted. Developing these skills is incredibly important and a huge asset not only on the individual level but also in terms of contribution to society. These skills and abilities need to be fostered in our communities, through early childhood programs and/or different types of education programs in order to ensure overall betterment and progress as a whole.

Harvard: Developing Child
University of Minnesota: Project for Babies
The Science of Early Childhood Development

Source: Harvard University Center on the Developing Child