How Thinking Skills Help Children at School and Home

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Thinking skills and executive functions play a crucial role in children’s classroom success, as they are the cognitive processes that help kids to better plan, organize, make decisions, pay attention, and regulate behavior. These brain-based skills are important for maintaining a healthy and happy lifestyle outside the classroom, too, helping kids learn to develop a positive self-image and healthy social interactions.

These brain functions have been categorized into eight distinct thinking skills — Planning, Time Management, Focus, Organization, Working Memory, Flexibility, Self-Control and Self-Awareness — each of which covers a unique aspect of critical thinking. To help parents better understand how executive functioning works, we’ve gathered up some simple examples of how thinking skills help children at school and at home.

How Thinking Skills Help Children at School & Home:


Children with good Planning skills:

  • Combine school and social activities without getting overwhelmed by stress.
  • Tend to be good at scheduling activities.
  • Can anticipate the tools necessary to successfully complete a task.
  • Prioritize their activities effectively.

Time Management:

Children with good Time Management skills:

  • Tend to be good at planning and scheduling.
  • Are able to judge how long it will take to complete tasks.
  • Are able to complete tasks or chores in a timely fashion.
  • Prioritize their activities effectively.


Children with good Focus skills:

  • Are unlikely to waste time at the beginning of a test, chore, or other task.
  • Easily complete chores and homework without interruption.
  • Have little problem achieving long-term goals.
  • Can read a lengthy novel or write a book report.
  • Can sit and complete their homework in a timely fashion.
  • Continue to work on tasks that may be boring or dull, such as chores.


Children with good Organization skills:

  • Always know how to find homework or studying materials.
  • Put their bookbags, clothing, and other materials in a regular place.
  • Are able to work systematically on longer projects, such as writing an essay or book report.
  • Keep track of their commitments, homework, and responsibilities.

Working Memory:

Children with good Working Memory skills:

  • Can remember and follow complicated directions.
  • Have the ability to use what they have learned in a previous experience in a new situation.
  • Maintain their level of engagement while performing tasks, even when shifting activities within a given task.
  • Reorganize their thoughts or materials in a fashion that encourages further learning.
  • Are able to sustain their attention throughout tasks.


Children with good Flexibility skills:

  • Are able to think on their feet and adapt readily to new situations.
  • Do well with transitions, such as leaving gameplay to sit down at dinnertime.
  • Are able to wait their turn so that a younger child can have a first opportunity to do something.
  • Are able to deal with disappointment when they lose a game.
  • Are able to view situations from others’ perspectives.


Children with good Self-Control skills:

  • Have positive, rather than negative self-images.
  • Are able to accept criticism without becoming angry or defensive.
  • Handle frustration well, without having outbursts or needing to stop what they’re doing.
  • Understand the need for taking turns in game play.
  • Show appropriate caution while crossing the street or using a knife.
  • Take enough time to understand social situations before joining in.


Children with good Self-Awareness skills:

  • Recognize the needs of younger children, such as holding their hands while crossing a street.
  • Are willing to evaluate themselves. Have an awareness of how their behavior impacts others.
  • Display an ability to understand and articulate their feelings.
  • Use self-instruction, such as, “First, I’ll do this; next, I’ll do that.”
  • Are able to identify what they must learn in order to complete a task successfully.
  • Understand their personal strengths and weaknesses.

If you’d like to learn more about thinking skills and executive functioning, head over to our Thinking Skills page to explore more information on each of these important skills.

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