By Janis Adams

Whether your child is developmentally ready to make the move from preschool to kindergarten may depend on whether they are successfully mastering some very adult sounding competencies called “executive functioning.”

Executive functioning is a set of skills: the capacity to plan ahead and meet goals, display self-control, follow multiple-set directions even when interrupted, and stay focused despite distractions, among others.

In other words, executive functioning is the ability to prioritize tasks, filter distractions, and control impulses — lofty goals for a preschooler!

A study from Harvard’s School of Child Development explains it is executive functioning skills that ease the way into becoming a good student, a good friend, a responsible citizen and a healthy adult. As important as these skills are to our childhood and adult lives and our general well-being, it is typically between the ages of 3 and 5 that these skills develop most rapidly.

Good genes may provide a blueprint but for the most part executive functioning skills are learned. They are modeled by adults and encouraged over time by establishing routines, breaking big tasks into smaller chunks, role-playing, and following directions.

The ability to hold multiple streams of information at the same time, monitoring errors, making good decisions, revising plans as necessary, and resisting the urge to let frustration lead to hasty action are learned concepts.
Acquiring the early building blocks of these skills is one of the most important and challenging tasks of the early childhood years. Learning to read and write, perform arithmetic problems, take part in group discussions, depends on, as well as develops, executive functioning skills.

How your child responds to learning to hold a pencil may be just as important as what they ultimately write with it. Learning executive functioning skills takes time and patience.

Janis Adams is the Founder/CEO of Academic Achievers Educational Services which specializes in elementary and high school subject tutoring, test prep, homeschool and KinderPrep: Learning to Love Learning.