Raising Successful Children

Research shows that Executive Function skills predict children’s success in life and school more than IQ!

Kathie Burrell, owner of GPS for over 14 years and an expert in Brain Appropriate learning, recently shared with Discovery Elementary School families the importance of Executive Function Skills. The Executive Function skills coordinate the smooth working of 3 areas of the brain: Inhibitory Control; Working Memory; and Cognitive/Mental Flexibility. These skills grow in complexity as the child grows and is often called the Air Traffic Control System of the brain.

Inhibitory Control is the ability to control inappropriate behaviors or responses including focusing, task initiation and self-monitoring skills. Working Memory is the ability to hold and manipulate information in the mind for short periods of time. As children gain more facts and experiences they must retain or know where to find them. Cognitive/Mental Flexibility is the ability to transition from an activity with ease including planning, prioritizing and organization. These processes allow children to pay attention in class, develop good working habits, plan and complete tasks and think creatively when unexpected outcomes occur.

Children are naturally curious and you have the power to help build their brains and strengthen their Executive Function skills. Proper functioning of these areas is not solely genetic and plasticity of the brains allows for promoting its successful development. Engaging emotions, guiding to make connections, reducing learning stress, creating meaningful experiences and making learning fun all help develop these important skills.

By establishing routines and modeling the behavior you want you will create important habits for your children. Task initiation is developed by establishing routines and avoiding procrastination. Use check lists and calendars! Because the brain is a pleasure seeking organ, follow the GPS Philosophy – make it meaningful and fun! Here are some ideas to develop these areas:

Impulse Control

  • Board and Card Games
  • Red Light/Green Light
  • Tag
  • Sharing Activities


  • Memory/Concentration
  • 20 Questions
  • Freeze Dance
  • Puzzles

Flexibility of Mind

  • Charades
  • Sorting activities
  • Simon Says


  • Competitions
  • Board and Card Games
  • Puzzles

Planning and Prioritizing

  • Parties
  • Sleep-overs


  • Scavenger Hunts with sorting
  • Cooking
    Planning a Lemonade Stand

Working Memory

  • All of the above!
  • Cumulative Songs
  • Cumulative Story Games

Remember – these important skills can be taught behaviors because of the plasticity of the brain. So grab your games of Uno and Connect 4 and let the fun (and Executive Function Skills) begin!