Creating a Healthy Snack With Funny Food: A Way to Teach Executive Function Skills
Playing with healthy (funny) food is a joyful way to develop and practice executive function skills that are essential for daily life. What are they, and why are these important life skills not usually taught in school?
Closely examine a typical day and examples of executive function skills will emerge. These skills help us manage our lives and be productive.
Before you leave for work in the morning, you probably prepare breakfast for the family, make sure everyone is up and dressed and homework and lunch are in the backpack, teeth are brushed and whatever notes came home the night before are responded to.
I imagine there are many other executive function skills you employ to be a contributing member at work and in your community. Jump ahead to the end of the workday. Before you leave you may make your “To Do“ list for the next day and preview the drive home; pick up the dry cleaning, pop into the supermarket, call back the doctor before 6PM. You drive home, and as you are backing in to a parking space- someone pulls into the spot.
Your self- control helped you to deal with the situation in a reasonable way. You recoup and being flexible- search for another parking space.
When you finally get home you prepare dinner while helping your daughter with her homework and check on your teenager to be sure he fed the neighbor’s cat.
These are typical tasks we are expected to complete in our daily lives that are examples of the executive function skills that I mentioned at the top of the blog.
Adults who are able to plan ahead and multi-task, even when interrupted or disinterested, and to stay calm under stress, problem solve and be able to switch if the solution is not working, probably learned these skills at home or in school when they were young- over time and with practice. People who don’t learn these skills struggle their entire lives.
Why not help children develop executive function skills while engaged in zany and humorous experiences that are also good for their health.
Making “Funny Food” is an intentional activity where children make a plan, get all the ingredients ready, and set a goal before making a Funny Food creation.
Think of all the executive skills being introduced or reinforced in the simple activity of making a wacky, healthy snack or meal!
With your guidance, children stay focused, monitoring their progress and making adjustments. If the ingredients won’t take shape as they expected, or things don’t go as expected, help them problem solve and think flexibly- building their vital executive skills. They are also learning how to control their impulses when they delay eating the ingredients until the goal is met and they have made whatever they planned.
These skills are critical to be able to meet the many challenges that they will face as they grow. These skills are as important as mastering reading, writing and math.