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Ask the Expert: What are some ways to improve executive functioning and organizational skills?

11 Feb 2020 4:12 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

By: Nikki Rotshtein, OTR/L, Occupational TherapistGalvin Therapy Center

Before we can improve on executive functioning skills, we must first build them in our children – starting from a very young age. What we do for them when they are young will become glaring deficits as they get older. Let's remember to coach them and not criticize to make them want to do more.


  • Tidy bedroom or playroom with assistance. (Often by using a backward chaining method – start with you doing the first 75% and have them complete). This takes a huge mountain of a job and makes it into a small hill. They will also feel accomplished vs. overwhelmed. You can continue to scale back as you see they are managing it as their "just right challenge.”
  • Perform simple chores and self-help tasks with routines such as clear dish from table after mealtime.

Kindergarten – Grade 2

  • Run errands (with two to three step directions).
  • Perform simple chores and self-help tasks with reminders such as making the bed before going downstairs in the morning.
  • Bring papers to and from school. Complete homework assignments (20-minute maximum).

Grades 3—5

  • Run errands that may involve time delay or greater distance such as going to a nearby store or remembering to do something after school.
  • Tidy bedroom or playroom (ask them what they might prefer, for example, vacuuming or dusting).
  • Perform chores that take 15—30 minutes such as cleaning up after dinner, raking leaves or cleaning up from the cake they just baked with you.
  • Keep track of belongings when away from home (sleeping at a friend's, returning library books).
  • Plan simple meal prep or baking activity and create menu/shopping list needed.
  • Keep track of changing daily schedule such as different activities after school.

Grades 6—8

  • Help out with chores around the home, including both daily responsibilities and occasional tasks (emptying dishwasher, raking leaves, shoveling snow). Tasks may take 60—90 minutes to complete.

High school

  • Make good use of leisure time, including obtaining employment or pursuing recreational activities during the summer.

Soon they will go from helpless to helpful!

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