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How Executive Function Promotes Healthy Emotional Development in Children 4–9 Years Old

As children continue to grow, there are important developmental benchmarks for parents and teachers to monitor to ensure healthy development, including Emotional Development. A child’s well-being goes far beyond physical health—mental, emotional, and social considerations also are crucial. In this post, we’ll focus on how Executive Function skills promote healthy emotional development in children 4–9 years old.

Executive Function: A Quick Overview

Executive Function (EF) is an umbrella term for the self-regulatory skills children need to flourish and achieve success in school and everyday life. This set of skills allows children to:

  • Pay attention
  • Hold information in mind and work with it
  • Manage behavior and impulse control
  • Think flexibly and problem-solve

Well-developed EF skills allow children to plan, organize, and complete tasks, such as getting dressed in the morning and finishing assignments and following instructions in class. Without these skills, children can quickly fall behind their peers.

What Is Emotional Development in Children?

Emotional development encompasses children’s ability to feel, express, understand, and regulate their emotions. Just as importantly, it also involves the ability to recognize the emotional states of others and effectively adapt to social environments and expectations.

Some Emotional Milestones in Children 4–6

  • Understands language and can express their feelings in words
  • Show empathy towards others (understand others’ emotions)
  • Are willing to play cooperatively, take turns, and share
  • Understand the consequences of their actions

Some Emotional Milestones in Children 7–9

  • Understand the concept of having mixed emotions about an event
  • Can adjust own emotional displays based on their culture’s expectations
  • Get better at emotional role-taking with others
  • Can use a number of different strategies to regulate emotions

Healthy emotional development in children 4–9 years old has a positive effect on their coping and decision-making skills, ability to accomplish goals, and social development. For example, a child who can effectively process and express anger or frustration verbally rather than physically (e.g., hitting) will cope better with the stress of everyday situations such as receiving criticism or losing a game.

How Executive Function Promotes Healthy Emotional Development

Executive Function—often referred to as the traffic control system of the mind—helps children to regulate their emotions and behaviors so they can achieve success in school and beyond. For example, a child who can think flexibly can consider someone else’s perspective on a situation; a child who can manage impulses can avoid the temptation to blurt things out or disrupt in class.

Identifying children with potential Executive Function disorders and helping them to develop those skills is crucial to healthy early childhood emotional development — and the earlier the detection the better.

Executive Function Assessment

The Minnesota Executive Function Scale (MEFS App™) is an EF assessment tool that was developed after over 20 years of scientific research and is the only early learning readiness assessment that can measure Executive Function in children as young as age two.

  • Anyone with limited training can administer the MEFS App™
  • Children can take the assessment before they even begin in a new classroom
  • The assessment does not require weeks of observation
  • The MEFS App™ provides ongoing student data monitoring for teachers

For more information about how Executive Function promotes healthy emotional development in children 4–9 years old or the MEFS App™ assessment tool, contact us at Reflection Sciences today.

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