• Jenny Aguilar

4 Easy Ways to Nurture the Development of Executive Skills this Holiday Season!

The holidays are a busy time for everyone! Everyone inevitably feels tired from all the planning, travel, preparation, and added commitments and responsibilities. Take full advantage of this holiday season to nurture executive skills and create memories with your children.


Here are a few quick and easy ways to promote the development of their executive skills this season:

  • Grocery Shopping- baking cookies for Santa and the neighbors? Hosting friends at your house? Cooking and baking serve as a golden opportunity to practice planning, time management, organization, working memory, and self-monitoring skills.

  • Invite your learner to select the recipe - how will they remember the ingredients? Amounts needed? (working memory, planning, decision-making, organization, flexibility)

  • When and where will you shop for the supplies?

  • Calculate how many servings or batches will be needed

  • When will you cook? How much time will it take?

  • Cook the recipe! Layout all the ingredients, follow the recipe, sequence each step, take time to calculate each ingredient accurately, and model how you self-monitor.

  • Gift Shopping

  • Ask your child to think about and list all family members

  • Have them brainstorm gifts for each person

  • Consider where you can buy the gift (consider store location, price, availability, etc. )

  • What is needed to wrap the gifts? Boxes, wrapping paper, ribbons, tissue, etc.

  • When will the gifts be wrapped?

  • Organize the calendar together- if your child is in middle school there should be two separate calendars, a personal and family calendar

  • Add all school-related events to the calendar: test dates (school responsibilities ramp up as the break nears), project and paper due dates, holiday plays & performances, athletic events, gift exchanges, etc.

  • Add holiday parties and dinners

  • Add vacation dates (break from school and family travel dates)

  • Charity and volunteering events

  • Anyone visiting? Add the dates & who is visiting

  • Personal dates (appointments)

  • Model Emotional Regulation! Perhaps the utmost important function we can model for everyone. Children learn by observing us- be aware of how you're modeling self-regulation :)

  • Flexibility- when things don’t go as expected. We live in a world of unpredictability—model flexibility when disruptions get in the way. Recognize your feelings, be compassionate, and then model how you tell yourself a different, more positive story. For example, if the checkout line is long, model patience, acknowledge your disappointment, and use this time to connect with your child, for instance, by playing a game.

  • Asking for help- show your learner that being vulnerable, self-aware of when you need help, and grateful in receiving support is a sign of strength.

  • Positive self-talk & optimism. Be an example and talk out loud about how you overcome moments of frustration and distress. Our internal thoughts guide our emotions, which guide our behaviors. Practice finding something positive in the most frustrating times.


Enlist the help of your children this holiday season festively and productively! Maximize this holiday season and find fun, challenge, and fulfillment sculpting your child's brains and expanding their repertoire of skills.



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