Executive function and self-regulation

Executive Function and Self-Regulation are just two of the many skills we support and promote children to develop at Little Hands Daycare. In September 2021, the updated Development Matters (EYFS) included these two skills within its guidance for the first time, and there are three important questions which we would like to answer:

What are they? Why are they important? How does our curriculum support children to develop Executive Function and Self-Regulation?

It is important to point out that the two are closely linked:

Executive Function 

Every individual has an executive function. Your child’s executive function focuses on three main areas: memory (holding information in their mind), thinking flexibly (changing what they are focused on to match the situation) and self-control (demonstrating self-control and resisting impulses).

These areas work together to support your child to develop and use key skills including paying attention, staying organised, maintaining focus, empathising and self-regulating their emotions.

In simple terms, your executive function enables you to carry out a task, get it done and sorted.


For children to stay focused and work on the skills which fall under the umbrella of executive function – it is important for your child to be able to self-regulate their own emotions. For example, your child may experience lots of emotions when they are asked to tidy up their toys at home – they could be angry, frustrated, annoyed. They will need to use lots of self-regulation skills, so they are able to move onto the new task of tidying up their toys and moving on with the day.

Self-regulation can help your child manage their emotions to different situations and behaviour. This could help to calm down after becoming upset or not becoming too excited.

Both of these skills are important as they will enable your child to stay on task and develop their memory so they are able to utilise these throughout the day as they engage with a new play experience.

How do we promote these skills at Little Hands Daycare?

At Little Hands Daycare, we promote children’s self-regulation in several ways. Each child has a key person. The key person provides a warm, positive, and secure relationship so your child feels comfortable and develops the confidence to explore the environment.

We also teach self-regulation skills through modelling and encouraging children to develop their emotional literacy. Through our effective intervention strategies and Promoting Positive Behaviour policy we want to provide children with the tools and skills they need to regulate their emotions successfully. (If you haven’t already seen our Promoting Positive Behaviour – please speak to your child’s key person who will be happy to share this with you). *It’s crucial to note that being able to regulate our own emotions and behaviour is one of life’s biggest challenges. This makes an adult’s knowledge of self-regulation and their understanding of how to support this skill for children…absolutely essential.

You might have heard us use the term emotion coaching here at Little Hands. This is another strategy we use to support your child’s self-regulation skills. This is an extremely effective tool to ensure your child can regulate their emotions. (We talked about our experiences of emotion coaching and effective intervention in another blog post). If you would like us to outline the 3 main stages of emotion coaching, please get in touch, we will be more than happy to go through this with you.

A child’s executive function is developing all the time at Little Hands. A communication and language programme, Talk Boost encourages children to develop their listening and understanding skills which are a great way to strengthen and support your child’s executive function. We provide jigsaw puzzles, loose parts and matching games which develop your child’s problem-solving skills as they work out how to fit pieces together.

Another simple but effective intervention strategy which we use daily is encouraging children to plan and refocus by using a ‘now and next’ strategy. As we prepare children to transition from one task to another, it is important to acknowledge what they are doing and what they will be doing next. We also have frequent opportunities to learn and sing new nursery rhymes – this is a great way of developing your child’s memory and processing skills.


Development Matters 2021 (your child’s key person uses this guidance to support your child’s development, plan exciting learning opportunities and identify what skills your child could develop next)


102-104 Brettell Lane, Amblecote, West Midlands, DY8 4BS

T: 01384 441441
E: amblecote@littlehandsdaycare.co.uk

Nursery Manager: Lara Owen & Bev Ramsell

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The Sunday School, 2 Chapel Street, Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, B60 2BQ

T: 0121 820 7119
E: bromsgrove@littlehandsdaycare.co.uk

Nursery Manager: Emma Gerrish

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Nursery Block Heart Of Worcestershire College School Drive Bromsgrove Worcestershire B60 1PQ

T: 0121 824 4697
E: howcollegebromsgrove@littlehandsdaycare.co.uk

Nursery Manager: Clare Fereday

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16-18 Hagley Road, Stourbridge, West Midlands, DY8 1PS

T: 01384 396920
E: stourbridge@littlehandsdaycare.co.uk

Nursery Manager: Lara Owen & Lucy Brettle

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