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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
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“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





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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.



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