Interventions shown to aid executive function development in children 4 to 12 years old

Science. 2011 Aug 19;333(6045):959-64. doi: 10.1126/science.1204529.


To be successful takes creativity, flexibility, self-control, and discipline. Central to all those are executive functions, including mentally playing with ideas, giving a considered rather than an impulsive response, and staying focused. Diverse activities have been shown to improve children's executive functions: computerized training, noncomputerized games, aerobics, martial arts, yoga, mindfulness, and school curricula. All successful programs involve repeated practice and progressively increase the challenge to executive functions. Children with worse executive functions benefit most from these activities; thus, early executive-function training may avert widening achievement gaps later. To improve executive functions, focusing narrowly on them may not be as effective as also addressing emotional and social development (as do curricula that improve executive functions) and physical development (shown by positive effects of aerobics, martial arts, and yoga).

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Computers
  • Curriculum
  • Emotions
  • Executive Function*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Male
  • Martial Arts / education
  • Memory, Short-Term