EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONING DOESN’T STOP WHEN SUMMER STARTS
By Amanda Gay, Instructor
Summer is upon us but that doesn’t mean executive function strategies are no longer needed. In fact, summer is the perfect opportunity to introduce, model and practice skills and strategies to help your child learn how to organize, prioritize and manage their time and materials. Here are four simple ways to incorporate executive functioning into your child’s summer:
Create a family calendar:
Work together to map out a family calendar (either paper or digital) so that your child can practice key planning and time management skills.
- Don’t just make the calendar FOR the family- create it WITH the family. It is imperative that kids are involved in the end-to-end process of creating and managing daily, weekly and monthly events.
- Make sure the calendar lives somewhere accessible to all. For paper calendars, for example, you might consider hanging it in a high traffic area like the fridge door.
- To keep things organized, you can ask each family member to pick a color and mark important events and commitments in that shade.
- You might also consider modeling flexibility with plans by either using a pencil/eraser or a whiteboard and dry erase markers- something that can be easily adapted if (and when!) plans change.
- Calendars are not a one and done event. Model calendar upkeep by setting a regular Sunday night family meeting to update the family calendar and preview the events/logistics in the week ahead.
Build a daily routine:
Collaborate with your child to write out a daily routine so that they can practice time management and self monitoring skills.
- Daily routines can be created digitally using Google Docs or apps such as Habit Tracker. Paper-based options work just as well.
- Brainstorm self care tasks and must do chores/ activities and block out time in their day to participate in each (e.g. summer reading book, applying sunblock, making bed).
- Have your child add in blocks of time for free time, time with friends, and fun activities around the must do tasks.
- Create a routine for each family member -parents, too! – and hang them in a high traffic area to help each other stay accountable.
- Set weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly routine reviews to revise and update routines as needed.
Create getting ready checklists for summer camps and sports will help your child increase their independence while practicing organization, task initiation, and self advocacy skills.
- Work together with your child to brainstorm what materials need to be packed before attending camp or sports practice.
- Create an interactive checklist that your child can check off, or move tasks as they complete them.
- Weave in self advocacy by making a plan of what your child should do if they can not find the materials or equipment needed for their activity.
- Keep the checklist by the door and review it together before heading out to practice a “stop and check” approach.
Organize! Give items a home:
Summer comes with a lot of stuff- camp bags, sports equipment, swim gear, water bottles, etc. Apply physical organization skills to taming the chaos.
- Engage your child in figuring out a physical location for each item. Students can help label shelves, write their names on water bottles, etc. Then, prompt your child to grab their gear from the designated spot and return the items when ready (rather than doing this for them!)
- A designated spot is a preventative strategy to decrease the likelihood of materials and equipment getting forgotten and/ or lost.
These strategies may seem intuitive to us as adults, but our children, whose prefrontal cortexes are still under heavy development, benefit from explicit instruction and practice in these areas. Use the summer to boost your child’s brain development by exercising those executive function skills.