Preschool Executive Function

I heard a wonderful story today on NPR, that I hope someone at Boy’s school heard as well.  The story was titled, “Creative Play Makes for Kids in Control.”  The story was about one school’s work with helping kids develop “regulat[ion of] their behavior and emotions.”  The curriculum is based on the program called, “Tools of the Mind.”  From the sound of things such a program ought to spread across the country. 

Consider this, with more kids spending more time watching television and playing video games inside, less kids are playing with their imagination.  “Tools of the Mind” encourages such imaginative play.  It sounds at first very prescribed, according to the story, before play, the children sit down with their teacher and create a plan on paper.  The plan, however, along with the imagination at work, evidently help a child build what’s identified as “executive function.”   As the story progresses, we learn that “executive function” consists of several cognitive developments that are delayed by all that T.V. watching and video game playing, “such as working memory and cognitive flexibility.”  The most vital of this cognitive development is what’s called, “self-regulation — the ability for kids to control their emotions and behavior, resist impulses, and exert self-control and discipline.”  The link between lagging executive function and “high dropout rates, drug use and crime” is strong.  But there’s another link weak self-regulation has that I’ve considered before, and that is its link to ADHD diagnoses. 

Adele Diamond, executive function researcher, argues in the piece that:  “I think a lot of kids get diagnosed with ADHD now, not all but many just because they never learned how to exercise self-control, self-regulation, the executive functions early.”

In at least one future entry, I hope to share some research that I’ve done concerning executive function, and more specifically inhibitory control, where I cited work by Diamond.  But for now, check out the story at NPR, and consider asking your preschool center if they’ve heard of “Tools of the Mind.”   

There’s some great Q & A after the piece.  You can read or listen to the story online here.

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2 Responses to “Preschool Executive Function”

  1. Jeanette Says:

    Part of me is excited about your article–how people are going after regenerating the imagination. But part of me is so sad about it–isn’t it sad that they have to teach kids how to use their imagination? That kids are not learning from home how to “play nicely” with other kids, so they have to go through this curriculum? Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad people are using it if it’s helping, it just makes me kind of sigh at “what the world is coming to.” I’ll look forward to reading about the research you come across in the future. Jeanette~

  2. kspitz Says:

    yes, I agree with Jeanette. It’s great that we now have a “tool” to kick start kid’s imaginations, but why did they go down in the first place? When I was a kid ( I know, I hate stories that begin with those words) we rarely watched television, especially during the summer months. My mom simply said, “go out and play”, and we did. We came up with all kinds of games, some with standard rules and some we just made up as we went along. We laughed a lot, we sometimes argued, etc. etc. My point being…turn OFF the TV, the video games, even the new gadgets that will supposedly train kids’ minds and encourage them to come up with their own ideas…hey, how about planting a garden?

    Good writing, clear, informative without being too wordy.


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