Executive function skills: how to train them with Smart Tales

Every professional has their passions. Mine, as an enthusiastic speech therapist for children, is the development of the so-called executive functions skills.

Two words that may seem difficult for “non-professionals”: these are the abilities that our brain possesses to cope with new situations and reach a goal.

In childhood, these skills can be enhanced through play.

Working with children with language and school learning disorders I often find myself faced with a challenge.

With older children it is easier to find training material and games, while for the little ones it becomes difficult to find something motivating and effective at the same time.

For this reason, the Smart Tales app is of great help.

Why Smart Tales?

With interactive stories it is easier to arouse interest in the little ones. Children follow the story and interact through games. Plus I can train specific skills based on the stories I choose. Here are some examples. 

The lost pendant

The cute little monkey Vicky has a little problem to solve: she can’t find her precious necklace, a gift from her little sister who lives in Africa.

In the story “The lost pendant” children train their visual-spatial and planning skills by helping the little monkey Vicky to find her banana-shaped pendant.

Who’s afraid of the dark?

Zaldo the lion does not want to leave his refuge when the sun is shining because he is afraid of the shadows. The friends of the forest help him overcome his fears. With the games in

“Who’s afraid of the dark?” children have fun recognizing the shadows of animals and train selective visual attention.

Manu’s full of emotions

It is Manu the wolf’s birthday but he is sad because he has lost his favorite toy. Children carry out planning and problem-solving activities to help the other forest animals organize a surprise party to lift his mood.

What are the executive functions?

The first executive function skills that a child begins to develop from an early age are inhibition, the ability to block impulsive behaviors and working memory.

Assuming that without memory there is no learning, working memory is a type of memory (yes, there are many) that allows us to memorize information for a short period of time and to “work” on it.

Let’s think about carrying out a calculation in mind: a grind if you are not trained!

As children grow up, they begin to develop other more complex executive function skills such as flexibility and problem solving.

Flexibility (or shifting) is the ability to divide attention between two different activities. For example, a child can be asked to listen to a series of sounds and clap his hands if s/he hears the moo of the cow, or to draw an “x” on a piece of paper if s/he hears the miao of a cat. 

Problem solving, or the ability to plan and solve problems, also begins to develop from childhood and involves the acquisition of important skills such as: focusing attention on the problem to be solved (sustained attention), keeping in mind the necessary elements for problem solving (working memory), abstraction and reasoning skills, action monitoring and so on.

Last, but not least, is attention. There are many types of attention. Selective attention allows us to focus on an important stimulus while excluding irrelevant ones, while sustained attention allows us to perform a task for an extended period of time.

These skills are crucial in the development of a child also in view of beginning school. The playful aspect is important when it comes to continuous training: children have fun and are more motivated with stories and games.

Discover Smart Tales

Each story is a unique learning experience for children. Discover the three stories reported by our speech therapist Rosanna to train attention and memory while having fun.

The lost pendant

Who’s afraid of the dark?

Manu is full of emotions

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