Executive Function in Five-year-olds – observations

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If we have a low expectation of what a five-year-old can achieve, we may think this is silly stuff.

Can a five-year-old plan?  ‘I want’ is the simplest form of a plan and most preschool children know how to get what they want.  They also work out the most successful way of getting what they want when it seems to them that their plan is going to be thwarted.  This ‘action plan’ can be switched on and off at will.  Clever little bodies!!!

Can a five-year-old filter out distractions?  Most adults have encountered the young child who fails to hear when they are engrossed in an activity that is very satisfying.  However, even an apparently totally absorbed young child will hear a whispered conversation about a special treat.  Amazing!!!

Can a five-year-old engage in multi-tasking?  Can they make something with play dough, conduct a conversation and plan what they are going to do next, all at the same time?  Watch!!!

Can a five-year-old focus attention on something new and ask questions about it?  Given the opportunity, young children are naturally curious about the environment and fascinated with small creatures, plants, rocks and shells.  They want to know all about it.  Listen!!!

Can five-year-olds remember complex instructions?  For example,  ‘take your dirty dishes to the bench, put the cutlery in the sink and then go and choose a book to read together.’  Try it!!!

Can five-year-olds organize themselves?   Have you ever listened to them organizing a game?  Some can not only organize themselves, but everyone else as well!   Watch and listen!!!

Can five-year-olds control impulses?  Picture this, a Grandma had grandson in the trolley at the supermarket.  He was performing because he knew Gran had put a treat in the trolley and he wanted it ‘now’.  Gran told him to wait until she had paid for it.  He kept performing – loudly.  Gran took the treat out of the trolley and put it to one side and told him that if he didn’t stop, she would not buy it and she would leave it behind in the shop.  Grandson continued to perform but he watched Gran carefully.  She moved the treat further away.  Grandson went quiet.  Gran’s turn came at the checkout and she left the treat till last, watching Grandson carefully.  He stayed quiet.  When it came time for the treat, she took it up and looked at him.  He stayed quiet, so she put it through the check-out and put it in the shopping bag.  She told him he had done well but to wait until they got out to the car.  He stayed silent and waited.  When they got to the car, he was very delighted to get his treat.  It was worth waiting for and he learned a valuable lesson in the process – that he could control himself.  Try it!!!