December 12, 2008

Is your child's EF more important than IQ?

EF is short for Executive Function. Sounds like a management theory. Nope, it's the newest theory for understanding how children navigate their world, particularly during school. Some experts think it's a more realistic marker than IQ.

Great Schools has a good overall article about EF from October. If you haven't checked out the Great School website before, browse around after reading the article because it's a great wealth of information about schools in general and then drills down to your child's school details.

Executive Function is about how well kids (or any age really) organize, focus, pace themselves, manage time. The better kids are at skills like these the better they'll do in school. Sounds obvious, but it's not quite what it seems.

As it turns out, creative play set up by children themselves is one of the best ways for children to become good at EF. NPR had an interesting series about this

But neuroscientist Adele Diamond and psychologist Deborah Leong have good news: The best kind of play costs nothing and really only has one main requirement — imagination.

When children learn to rely on themselves for playtime — improvising props, making up games and stories — they're actually developing critical cognitive skills, including an important one called "executive function," they say. Essentially, executive function is the ability to regulate one's own behavior — a key skill for controlling emotions, resisting impulses and exerting self control and discipline.

Wow! So all these hours schlepping kids from one mind-enhancing or sports activity to another might not be as good as just letting them run around the yard, fiddling with Legos and Barbies, even daydreaming