“We’d like an EF curriculum for the classroom, what’s available?” 

When children develop the language of thinking and feelings, they are more socially-competent, better learners and have better lifelong economic outcomes.

Early childhood, ages 2-7, is the perfect time to begin introducing Executive Function Skills to children. While there are only a handful of Executive Function Skills Curriculums (EFSC’s) for young children, there are early childhood curriculums that have a lot of EF training organically embedded in the teaching; three examples that come to mind are Traditional Montessori, The Creative Curriculum, and Responsive Classroom.  

There is also growing interest in social-emotional literacy, which is closely tied to thinking, interacting and learning.  RULER and SELF-REG are two programs you may wish to study.

Here’s a little bit about RULER from the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. 

RULER – Recognizing, Understanding, Labeling, Expressing, and Regulating emotion. K-8 teaching materials fully integrate with the existing curriculum and align with Common Core State Standards. (Preschool and high-school programs are currently in development.)

In early childhood, we focus on the foundational skills …. Planning, sequencing, attention, cognitive flexibility, working memory, and self-regulation are core EF’s upon which later skills such as metacognition, problem-solving and abstract reasoning scaffold.  These EFs are cognitive skills that are taught through narrative language, play, story telling, role-play, drawing, cognitive-exercise and more. One can even provide collaborative instruction as we do in 70 Play Activities

We collaborate with children (ages 4-12) to have “Cognitive Conversations” about what cognitive skills are, how your brain uses them in everyday life,  and how to improve them. Then we use strategies like Name It, Apply It, Revise It, The Flashlight Technique & I’ll Give This 10! to practice and improve skills. Core executive functions can be taught, modeled and improved through play, implicit instruction, conversation or direct instruction.

That’s the great thing! Thinking and self-regulation skills can be explored from many directions and are best developed through loving parent-child relationships as well as in high-quality early childhood curriculums, particularly when PLAY, creative exploration and problem-solving are at the core. 

Here are more resources for you: 

The Creative Curriculum, while not having explicit executive function training, has many activities, tasks and content domains well-suited to thoughtful EF reflection, examination, elaboration, and practice.

Responsive Classroom is a research-based approach to K-8 teaching that focuses on the strong link between academic success and social-emotional skills.

Tools of The Mind is a Vygotskian approach developed by Bodrova and Leong with implicit executive function instruction component for ages 3-6.

“Intentional Play Planning” and “Intentional Make-Believe Play” are good examples of the Tools approach to designing activities to develop foundational executive functions and self-regulation skills, at the same time as core academic skills are developed.

Smart Steps Since executive function for ages 0-7 is so dependent on cognitive-motor brain circuitry, we love Connell and McCarthy’s Smart Steps and use it with most of our 2-5 year olds.

Activities Guide: Enhancing and Practicing Executive Function Skills with Children from Infancy to Adolescence – Center on the Developing Child Harvard University

If you work with, teach or care for young children KIMOCHIS has a wonderful feelings curriculum we use in our practice.

Stress-Free Kids has Stress Management Lesson Plans for Parents, Educators, and Professionals – They are named by Forbes as a TOP PICK for Back To School

Find our THINK EF cueing cards and Spotlight here.


We develop research-based tools, activities, and strategies to improve children’s thinking, self-regulation, learning, and behavior by increasing their executive and social-emotional skill sets. Bloom (Kenney & Young, 2015) helps parents collaborate and calm their anxious, angry and over-the-top kids building better thinking, coping and relationship skills. 70 Play Activities (Kenney & Comizio, 2016) provides activities, worksheets, and strategies to teachers, school counselors, and school psychologists to help children learn new #EF and #SEL skills. With great fanfare, September 2017, Thinkerbee brings you, Bloom Your Room, the first social-emotional skill development program delivered as postable art and classroom activities (ages 4-10).  Our goal is to change the trajectory of children’s learning with joy, empowerment, and respect. Join our motivated community of over 10,000 educators, parents & clinicians and get the news about workshops, activities, and research here. Learn more and see a preview of Bloom Your Room here.

Share