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What are executive functions and why are they important?

Executive functions are the cognitive skills we need to control and regulate our thoughts, emotions and actions in the face of conflict or distraction. There are three categories of executive functions:

Self-control – ability to resist doing something tempting in order to do the right thing. Helps children pay attention, act less impulsively and stay focused on work.

Working memory – ability to keep info in mind where it can be used to make connections between ideas, to make mental calculations and to prioritize.

Cognitive flexibility – ability to think creatively and to be flexible to changing requests. Allows us to use imagination and creativity to solve problems.

Given that executive functions play a key role in children’s development and their success into adulthood, it makes sense to find ways to support the development of these skills in the early years.

source: Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development

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