How to Develop Executive Function Skills in Preschool

Promoting the development of executive function skills supports kids to learn problem-solving skills.

Executive function skills support children in using what they already know to solve problems. Preschool-age children generally do not have solid executive function skills to allow them to proficiently plan, make strategies or retain detailed information. However, teachers can create an environment which supports children using their prior knowledge to make new discoveries.

Organize the classroom and keep clutter minimal. Everything should have a place, and the kids should be encouraged to keep the classroom neat and orderly.

Create a classroom schedule that is always visible throughout the day. Include words and pictures to describe each activity. Children learn basic ways of keeping track of time and planning skills by experiencing routine every day.

Teach large concepts in multiple smaller lessons. Teach the basic idea first. Then, review the concept with the kids and teach another portion. Gradually layer on new knowledge until the entire concept is taught.

Engage preschoolers in classroom discussion daily. Speaking within a group helps develop the ability to listen to details and plan when to contribute to the discussion. The teacher will need to facilitate the discussion and support the children to speak in turn. This is a good time to quickly review previously learned concepts.

Encourage flexibility in the classroom. While young children thrive on routine, it is good to change up the schedule occasionally. Talk through the changes to help kids process the new information. This skill also supports students to make changes and corrections while completing assignments.

Reassure students that making mistakes helps with learning. Discuss mistakes with kids and encourage them to ask questions.

Suzanne Giovannettone Cope started writing in 2010 for eHow and LIVESTRONG, where her specialty topics include educational issues and redefining disability. She is a licensed educator whose formal training was completed at Northern State University. She holds a Bachelor of Science in elementary and special education with a concentration in Braille and teaching children with visual impairments.