Family Meals: 5 Ways to Promote Executive Function Skills

family dinnerFamily meal time is a valuable time that creates a strong relationship with your children and encourages healthy lifestyles and eating habits.  In addition, it provides an opportunity to build executive functioning skills through conversation and functional activities with your children.  Executive functioning skills include higher level such as…

  • making inferences
  • using logic and reasoning
  • problem solving
  • flexible thinking
  • making predictions
  • critical thinking and skepticism
  • social and conversation skills

Here are 5 ways you can build executive functioning skills during meal time with your child:

  1. Talk about your day first.  I mean really talk about it with your children (of course at an age-appropriate level).  Ask for opinions and suggestions from your children.  Teach your children to ask others about their day.  Children as young as 3 can ask and listen to adults tell simple reports about their day and ask appropriate questions.
  2. Stop asking “how was your day?”  Instead, ask a variety of questions that encourage more than just a report of the daily events.  Try “Did you ask any good questions at school today?” “What kind thing did you do for someone today?”  “What is something that was hard to do today?”  Your questions should start a conversation, not just a report.  Be willing to answer every question you ask.
  3. Discuss current events.  Find age-appropriate current events and talk about them with your children.  It can be as simple is “Today is the first day of spring, I saw purple flowers in the garden.” to “The legislature just passed a bill about…”   Demonstrate for your children how to thinking critically about local, national, and world events.  Have opinions and back them up with logically thinking.
  4. Wonder about something.  Ask questions such as “what if?” together.  Then seek out answers together.  Check out this post on ways to answer your children’s questions to promote critical thinking skills.
  5. Think about problems together.  It could be a small problem (“How can I get the stain out of the new rug?”) or big (“What would happen if X was elected in the next election?”).  It can be a personal problem, national or international problem, or even an intellectual problem.  Problem-solving with your children is the best way for them to learn how to think critically, but remember to guide your child and allow them to think and form their own ideas and opinions.child thinking

Need other ideas?

Interested in learning more about executive functioning- visit this posts:

Paige Hays is an occupational therapist who provides in-home, pediatric occupational therapy services in the south metro area of the Twin Cities, MN. She is a mother of 2 girls, avid DIYer, and a highly skilled and experienced OT. She specializes in working in pediatrics, with diverse expertise ranging from cognition and sensory issues to working with children with neuromuscular disabilities or complex medical needs.