Executive functions in everyday life -Inhibitory Control

Inhibitory control involves managing your actions and thoughts. That means you can stop, start, slow down, speed up, ignore, etc. as you need to.

Inhibitory control is more difficult for some children than others. But all children can benefit from practice.

Here are some things you can do with your child to work on Inhibitory Control:
– Walk at different speeds and in different ways. This will help children learn they can control their bodies. When you’re walking to the car or to school, ask your child how they want to walk – fast, slow, or in-between? I use pictures like those below to help children make choices on their own. Try moving like different animals – like a big bear, a dinosaur, a butterfly, a snail, etc.

– Play a familiar card or board game at different speeds. This will children control their bodies and thinking and learn it’s okay to take your time. Count out squares on a game board slowly, fast or in-between. Take your time discarding cards in a card game.
– Sing action songs – Songs that replace words with actions or silence are great for inhibitory control – you have to stop doing what you did before. Songs like BINGO the dog and Head and Shoulders Knees and Toes are great for practicing inhibitory control.
– Read and act out familiar stories.  Reading a story together means taking turns and waiting for other readers – that’s inhibitory control. Act out familiar stories using different mannerisms and voices to go with each character. Switching back and forth takes control and is a fun way to practice.
– Take up drumming. Drumming to different rhythms and at different speeds is excellent practice. Drums are very tempting – you just want to beat away. But bringing your hands and attention under control to make different rhythm patterns is excellent practice for inhibitory control.
– Work on ignoring. Part of inhibitory control is to keep yourself from being distracted by things that aren’t important. Let you child know what you do to ignore unimportant things – “I’m just going to ignore that phone right now.”. Prompt your child to do the same – “You can just ignore that and not let it bug you. That’s okay.”
– Model your own inhibitory control. Talk out loud when you come find yourself having problems staying on track – “Don’t think about supper. I’m reading right now. I’ll think about supper later.” or “Oh, I’d love some chocolate cake. Don’t think about it. I can have some later.”

The more you practice inhibitory control in playful ways with your child, the stronger it’ll get. The more you model and talk about the choices you make, the more your child will understand how to control themselves.

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