Australia’s national education evidence body
Support children to understand and control their emotions and behaviours

Overview

Executive function refers to the ability to control our attention, remember instructions, manage emotional reactions and behaviours and organise our thinking. Self-regulation is when learners use these skills to control their behaviour. For young children, executive function and self-regulation are essential for a range of tasks, including engaging in purposeful play, sustaining attention, persisting with challenging tasks and taking turns. 

Early Years Learning Framework

This topic relates to all outcomes in the Early Years Learning Framework – a guide to supporting and nurturing young children's learning from birth to 5 years of age, and their transition to school.

Research

The research supports a number of evidence-based practices for supporting executive function and self-regulation in early childhood care and education. 

Tried and Tested practice guide

This guide outlines key practices that support executive function and self-regulation.

Annotated reference list

An overview of the research evidence cited throughout our executive function and self-regulation resources.

Using the practice

Evidence-based practices play an important part in extending children’s learning and development of executive function and self-regulation. See below for some strategies to embed early executive function and self-regulation in your early childhood and care setting.

Using the practice: executive function and self-regulation

This resource looks at strategies for engaging in sustained shared conversations with children aged 3-5 years, and outlines examples of how educators and teachers can use moments in the day to build on children’s developing executive function and self-regulation skills.

Snapshots of practice

Executive function and self-regulation may look different in different contexts. See below some examples in early childhood settings. 

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