How to train your child’s brain

Kids’ brains are still under construction, to the frustration of many parents and teachers. But we can help.

The strategies the Search Institute recommends to help develop and strengthen executive functioning in kids uses the acronym SOAR.

The strategies the Search Institute recommends to help develop and strengthen executive functioning in kids uses the acronym SOAR.

The Search Institute is a non-profit organization committed to researching what adults can do to help kids and young adults thrive.

One area of interest is how adults can support brain development in the children they know. Executive function, which exists in the pre-frontal cortex of our brain allows us to defer gratification, and to remember and organize tasks, and even to calm down instead of blowing up. Understandably, it plays a large role in how well anyone can manage themselves and be productive at school or work. The strategies the Search Institute recommends to help develop and strengthen executive functioning in kids uses the acronym SOAR.

Support Imagination – Kids often have a natural bent to imagine all sorts of creative scenarios. Use this talent to help encourage and build empathy and explore how things might look and feel from another’s point of view. Reading is a great way to practice this skill!

Offer Choices within Limits – Allowing young people to have choice and control over some aspects of their lives is excellent practice for the inevitable difficult decisions we make throughout our lives. Today, it may be letting them choose which shirt and pants to wear, but these small decisions help hone their ability to make more consequential decisions later in life. An important thing to remember is that not all kids are ready to make totally independent choices – their brains are still developing. On a snowy day, for example, it’s probably wise to give them three warm-clothing options instead of allowing them to choose from their entire wardrobe.

Assist Reflection – Every event is an opportunity to reflect with your child. Taking the time to pause and consider potential outcomes before acting (or speaking) is something each of us benefits from, and kids are no different. If a difficulty comes up, working through problem-solving steps aloud with your child helps them internalize that skill to use when you aren’t around.

Raise Activity Levels – The connection between our brains and our bodies is very strong, so it’s not a surprise that physical activity helps young brains develop. Look for opportunities for your child or young person to get their blood pumping. Physical activity also contributes to stress management and limb coordination. Learning and following game rules also helps practice executive functioning – it’s all around a good thing.

The four approaches don’t need to be used independently – you can certainly do them all together. For example, when playing in the park, the child can choose between several different games, problem-solve through the game’s strategies, imagine the other participants’ thoughts/feelings, and work up a sweat.

Kids’ brains are still under construction, to the frustration of many parents and teachers. It’s helpful to remember that, as adults, we can consistently look for opportunities to support the development of these skills.  Practice makes perfect (or, at least, improved). For more information on these, and other helpful tips on young people, check out .

Just Posted

B.C. Wildfire Services shows a fire on Chehalis Forest Service Road as of Sunday, May 16, 2021. (BC Fire Services)
Small wildfire causing smoke in Chilliwack area

Wildfire is north of Chilliwack in the Harrison Mills area

Andrew and Eddie, seen here on Thursday, May 13, 2021, are two rabbits who are up for adoption at the Chilliwack SPCA. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Find Me My Furever Home – Andrew and Eddie at the Chilliwack SPCA

These two rabbits were living in poor conditions when the SPCA rescued them

Justin Bond’s Bahrain 1 took a team around a year to construct. It gets its name because the Sheik of Bahrain is a major sponsor of the team. / Photo courtesy of Justin Bond.
Mission dragracer wins Atlanta race, ousts back-to-back world champion

Justin Bond goes quarter-mile in 5.738-seconds, beating champ Stevie ‘Fast’ Jackson on home turf

The Chilliwack Fire Department responded to a fully engulfed travel trailer fire around 6:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 15, 2021. (Chris Gadsden)
UPDATE w/PHOTOS: Early-morning fire destroys trailer in Chilliwack

Chilliwack Fire Department called to Sinclair Road where travel trailer fire spread to house

Jamie and Erin O’Neill, who are renting a 107-year-old house at 45837 Knight Rd., are wanting to save it from the wrecking ball and move it when it comes time for the owners of the house to build a new house on the property. They are pictured here outside the home on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack couple wants to save 107-year-old home from demolition, asking for community support

O’Neills have less than year to find new property, raise funds to move Knight Road house

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

A vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is seen at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, April 22, 2021. Dr. Ben Chan remembers hearing the preliminary reports back in March of blood clots appearing in a handful of European recipients of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Science on COVID, VITT constantly changing: A look at how doctors keep up

While VITT can represent challenges as a novel disorder, blood clots themselves are not new

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Statistics Canada says the country's crime rate ticked up again in 2018, for a fourth year in a row, though it was still lower than it was a decade ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of May 16

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Poached trees that were taken recently on Vancouver Island in the Mount Prevost area near Cowichan, B.C. are shown on Sunday, May 10, 2021. Big trees, small trees, dead trees, softwoods and hardwoods have all become valuable targets of tree poachers in British Columbia as timber prices hit record levels. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne.
Tree poaching from public forests increasing in B.C. as lumber hits record prices

Prices for B.C. softwood lumber reached $1,600 for 1,000 board feet compared with about $300 a year ago

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The warm weather means time for a camping trip, or at least an excursion into nature. How much do you know about camps and camping-related facts? (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: Are you ready to go camping?

How many camp and camping-related questions can you answer?

The Independent Investigations Office of BC (IIO) (File Photo)
Police watchdog investigating after man found dead in Surrey following a wellness check

IIO says officers ‘reportedly spoke to a man at the home before departing’

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

Most Read