Home » ExchangeEveryDay » Structured Activities Can Hinder Executive Function

ExchangeEveryDay Past Issues

<< Previous Issue | View Past Issues | | Next Issue >> ExchangeEveryDay
Structured Activities Can Hinder Executive Function
May 7, 2019
Of course there is no formula for success except perhaps an unconditional acceptance of life and what it brings.
-Arthur Rubinstein

“When children spend more time in structured activities, they get worse at working toward goals, making decisions, and regulating their behavior,” wrote Ellen Wexler in an article on edweek.org.

“Instead, kids might learn more when they have the responsibility to decide for themselves what they're going to do with their time. Psychologists at the University of Colorado and the University of Denver studied the schedules of 70 six-year olds, and they found that the kids who spent more time in less-structured activities had more highly-developed self-directed executive function.

Self-directed executive function develops mostly during childhood, the researchers write, and it includes any mental processes that help us work toward achieving goals—like planning, decision making, manipulating information, switching between tasks, and inhibiting unwanted thoughts and feelings. It is an early indicator of school readiness and academic performance, according to previous research cited in the study, and it even predicts success into adulthood. Children with higher executive function will be healthier, wealthier, and more socially stable throughout their lives.”

Wexler goes on to explain: “The study is the first of its kind, and the researchers believe it's relevant to debates parents are already having on blogs and at soccer games—but it's also resonating with educators advocating the importance of free play in classrooms.”

Source: “Too Many Structured Activities May Hinder Children’s Executive Functioning,” by Ellen Wexler, edweek.org, July 2, 2014

Exchange Essentials

All Exchange Essentials are buy one,
get one FREE for a limited time.

Early childhood programs report that dealing with challenging behaviors is one of the greatest concerns they face.

Learn new strategies for successfully addressing challenging behaviors with the Exchange Essential PDF "Advocating for Play."

Exchange Essentials are collections of Exchange Articles around important topics and this week they are all 20% off!

Use code ESSENTIALS when prompted.

Offer valid through May 8, 2019 at 11:59 pm Pacific Time.
May not be combined with any other offer.


Delivered five days a week containing news, success stories, solutions, trend reports, and much more.


What is ExchangeEveryDay?

ExchangeEveryDay is the official electronic newsletter for Exchange Press. It is delivered five days a week containing news stories, success stories, solutions, trend reports, and much more.

Gryphon House - Effective Discipline Policies.
Urban Infant - Trouble Getting Your Toddlers to Nap?
Earn your bachelor’s online and become and Child Life Specialist. Bama By Distance at The University of Alabama brings you convenient and innovative options to earn your degree.

Comments (1)

Displaying 1 Comment
Christine Brown · May 07, 2019
United States

I agree whole-heartedly with the content of this article, but was disappointed not to see a reference to Montessori classrooms, where this idea is a basic premise and an integral part of how our learning environment is structured.

Post a Comment

Have an account? to submit your comment.


Your e-mail address will not be visible to other website visitors.

Check the box below, to help verify that you are not a bot. Doing so helps prevent automated programs from abusing this form.

Disclaimer: Exchange reserves the right to remove any comments at its discretion or reprint posted comments in other Exchange materials.