Executive Function: What is it and why does it matter?

The term executive function is familiar to researchers who study child development, but many parents and educators are probably reminded of what CEOs do in corporate offices—rather than what children develop during their critical early years of life. Click on the video below to learn about executive function and why it matters.

Executive function is the capacity to control one’s behavior and direct it toward longer-term goals. Because it is so important, Search Institute has prepared a new research brief that explains the concept in clear and actionable terms. The brief, Strengthening Executive Function in Children: Tips for Parents and Practitioners, compares the role of executive function in the brain to that of an air traffic controller who must coordinate the landing schedules of multiple planes, ensuring that everyone reaches the ground safely.

This new research brief describes how adults can easily do many things to promote the growth of executive function in children by keeping in mind the acronym SOAR:

  • Support imagination
  • Offer choices within limits
  • Assist reflection
  • Raise activity levels

To find out more about SOAR strategies and what parents can do to nurture executive function skills in children, download a free copy of Search Institute’s latest research brief, Strengthening Executive Function in Children: Tips for Parents and Practitioners.

Download Research Brief


Publish Date: 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

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Executive Functioning brief

Thank you so much for providing access to this article. It was wonderful reading and justified exactly what we do in early childhood when we support:

- learning through play
- engage in intentional teaching

We are holding a Parent Information night to advise parents of our kindergarten program and this article/brief will be a great resource to share (and support what we do in our program).

thanks once again
Kind regards
Educational Leader
Bubup Nairm Children's Centre
Melbourne, Vic, Australia

Cite for the brief

Thank you for the opportunity to download this brief. I have found it incredibly useful and have incorporated it one of my uni assignments. I am having some trouble citing it though. Just wondering if you could provide me with the publish date and if it was published in any journals. Kind regards, Sandra Dinsdale, Family Day Care Coordinator.


Hello Sandra,

So glad to hear you find this piece useful! This piece was published the same date as the blog (February 10, 2015) and it was not published in a journal, just on our website as a helpful research brief for practitioners.

Samantha MacDonald
Web & Social Media Specialist
Search Institute