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Abstract

The article describes Tools of the Mind—an instructional program developed 25 years ago and now implemented in a variety of early childhood settings across the United States and in Canada. Based on the principles of cultural-historical psychology, this program addresses developmental and learning needs of young children by offering a comprehensive curriculum and by delivering professional development for early childhood educators. The article provides examples of how Vygotskian and post-Vygotskian ideas get embodied in Tools of the Mind instructional strategies with a special emphasis on make-believe play as a leading activity for preschool- and kindergarten-aged children. The authors discuss the results of several evaluation studies conducted on Tools and how these results helped to shape the current state of the program.
... They often combine executive function training with program elements targeting social-emotional skills and elements targeting academic skills directly. Examples include Tools of the Mind (e.g., Bodrova and Leong, 2009), Head Start REDI (e.g., Bierman et al., 2008), the Chicago School Readiness Project (e.g., Raver et al., 2011), and Foundations of Learning (Morris et al., 2013). While some studies have reported positive effects of these programs on children's academic achievement (e.g., Raver et al., 2011;Diamond et al., 2019), others have found no significant effects (e.g., Morris et al., 2013;Nesbitt and Farran, 2021). ...
... Even after identifying the specific executive function component one aims to improve, the far transfer issue remains to be tackled. A recommendation for improving far transfer of executive function training to real-life tasks can be derived from situated learning theory (Collins et al., 1989;Greeno, 1998;Bodrova and Leong, 2009). Theorists in the situated learning tradition have argued that cognitive skills need to be practiced within authentic contexts, that is, within those concrete real-life situations where the respective skill is supposed to be mastered and applied by the learner (see Renkl et al., 1996). ...
... Related to the idea of cognitive training in authentic contexts is the principle of training under varying contextual conditions (see Bodrova and Leong, 2009). As described above, several classroom-based programs in early childhood education have taken this approach (e.g., Bierman et al., 2008;Raver et al., 2011;cf. ...
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The aim of training executive functions is usually to improve the ability to attain real-life goals such as academic achievement, that is, far transfer. Although many executive function trainings are successful in improving executive functions, far transfer is more difficult to achieve (cf. Diamond and Lee, 2011; Sala and Gobet, 2020). In this perspective article, we focus on the transfer of executive function training to academic performance. First, we disentangle possible sources of transfer problems. We argue that executive functions can facilitate academic performance via two specific pathways, namely learning-related behaviors and learning-related cognitions. Further, we discuss how domain-specific factors (e.g., task-specific demands and prior knowledge) may influence the successful application of executive functions to learning in this domain. Second, we discuss how the school setting can be used to enhance executive function training with approaches to facilitating far transfer to academic achievement. Specifically, we suggest that training executive functions as a means to improve academic performance is most promising in young students, for whom both behavioral and domain-specific cognitive demands of formal schooling are quite novel challenges. Furthermore, we outline that students could be supported in far transfer of trained executive functions by being informed of the specific relevance of these skills for learning-related behaviors and by having them practice executive functions under such authentic conditions. Moreover, we suggest that in order to promote ongoing effects of executive function training beyond short-term interventions, teachers should be equipped to consider the specific executive function components that might facilitate and support students’ acquisition of a particular subject matter.
... Ecosystemic theories (Bronfenbrenner and Morris 2006) have been used to substantiate the idea that children and preschool teachers are involved in patterns of activities and interactions considered 'the primary engines of development ' (Ibid.,798). More specifically, interaction quality can be framed within constructivist and social-constructivist approaches using Piaget and Vygostky (Winsler and Carlton 2003;Bodrova and Leong 2018), and domain-specific theories (Carey and Spelke 1993). Based on these theories, best practice standards (Copple and Bredekamp 2009) emphasise the importance of developmentally appropriate interactions between children and their preschool teachers and peers, that should target multiple domains (e.g. ...
... They may seek proximity with their peers less often and may be inhibited, reluctant, and anxious to initiate, maintain, and lead interactions with their peers. With regard to educational practices in preschool, the findings imply that special emphasis should be placed on the support of peer interactions between 'undercontrollers' and 'overcontrollers' by applying social-constructivist approaches such as scaffolding (Acar, Hong, and Wu 2017;Bodrova and Leong 2018). However, recent findings suggest that preschool teachers fail to make use of the potential of 'scaffolding' to support peer interactions . ...
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Evidence indicates that children’s personalities shape their interactions and relationships with others. This study aims to identify the relationship between child personality types and interaction quality in preschools, which is of high predictive importance for the development of children’s competencies. Interaction quality was determined using the Individualized Classroom Assessment Scoring System (inCLASS) in a sample of 181 children attending 61 preschools in Austria. After including control variables, our results indicated that children characterised as ‘overcontrollers’ and ‘undercontrollers’ had significantly less peer interactions, compared to ‘resilients’. Furthermore, ‘undercontrollers’ tended to show less task orientation than ‘resilients’ and had more conflict interactions than ‘overcontrollers’. Consideration of child personality offers opportunities to support children in their interactions with others to improve interaction quality in preschools.
... In earlier discussion, it was highlighted that children's cognitive spontaneity can be manifested in their pretend play. Given that the cognitive processes involved in pretend play, such as object substitution and symbolic representation, were indicative of children's cognitive development (Bodrova & Leong, 2018;Vygotsky, 1967), it is not surprising that a positive link was found between intellectual overexcitability and cognitive spontaneity. Nevertheless, although children with high intellectual overexcitability prone to analyze and associate intellectual concepts and ideas, intellectual overexcitability was not predictive of manifest joy. ...
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This study examined the associations between overexcitabilities and playfulness of Chinese kindergarten children in Hong Kong. Participants were 107 children (43.4% girls, mean age = 60.1 months) and their parents. Parents reported their child’s overexcitabilities (imaginational, psychomotor, sensual, intellectual, and emotional), playfulness (physical spontaneity, social spontaneity, cognitive spontaneity, manifest joy, and sense of humor), household play choices, and household play opportunities through a questionnaire. The hierarchical regressions showed that, controlling for child age, gender, household play choices, and household play opportunities, children’s imaginational overexcitability was significantly predictive of their cognitive spontaneity, manifest joy, and sense of humor. Children’s psychomotor overexcitability was associated with their physical spontaneity, social spontaneity, and manifest joy, whereas their intellectual overexcitability was a significant predictor of social spontaneity and cognitive spontaneity. Theoretically, these findings suggest that children’s overexcitabilities may predispose them to certain play styles. Practically, results highlight the utility of creating a play context that embraces children’s diverse characteristics of overexcitability as this approach may cultivate their creativity.
... 8 For example, most of the theories, such as simulation theory, presuppose role-play, which can only be observed in competent players. Also, Bodrova and colleagues (Bodrova et al., 2013;Bodrova & Leong, 2009) argue that mature social pretend play in particular, characterised by elaborate play scenarios, is beneficial for children's development. ...
... Vigotsky defines the "proximal development zone" as the level of difficulty that a subject can overcome only with the support (scaffolding) of an adult or an experienced subject. Bodrova & Leong (2015) in the Tool of The Mind show that difficult repeated activities, supported by the adult, accompanied by joy, pride promote increased executive functions and success in primary school. ...
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The continuous decline in physical activity and the increase in sedentariness also seen in preschoolers contributes to the increased risk of non-communicable diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, metabolic diseases, type II diabetes, cancer in future adults. What are the possibilities for implementing children's physical activity? Can a playground contribute to the implementation of physical activity and motor and cognitive skills in kindergarten children? Research is carried out at the Parco Giochi Primo Sport 0246 in Treviso to evaluate the most effective teaching methodology to promote new motor learning in a difficult task and cognitive processes (executive functions). The combination of structured activity and free play, with the support (scaffolding) of a motor educator in a very difficult motor task, is more effective than free play activities alone.
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One of the more prominent early childhood interventions focused on the development of executive function (EF) skills is Tools of the Mind ( Tools ; Bodrova and Leong, 2019 ). Intervention studies comparing Tools classrooms with control classrooms, however, reveal inconsistent findings for children’s EF outcomes. The current study utilizes Head Start CARES teachers assigned to the Tools of the Mind enhancement intervention (Tools ; N = 75) and the children in their classrooms (N = 738). Relations between teachers’ characteristics (i.e., teaching experience, psychological well-being, and educational background), training attendance and implementation (i.e., coach rated fidelity and observed scaffolding), and the interaction among these factors were examined as predictors of classroom-level gains in EF. Results revealed several significant moderation effects indicating that Tools implementation is related to classroom EF gains for some but not all teachers.
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Resumen La intervención para la mejora de las funciones ejecutivas es crucial en educación preescolar puesto que el alumnado de esta etapa obtiene mayores beneficios de los programas de intervención. El objetivo de este estudio es presentar los resultados obtenidos de la aplicación del «Programa de entrenamiento en funciones ejecutivas en Educación Infantil», con el que se pretende la mejora del control inhibitorio, la memoria de trabajo y la flexibilidad cognitiva. Los participantes en este estudio son 100 niños y niñas de cinco y seis años, procedentes de dos colegios de Granada (España). Para evaluar el impacto del programa, se obtienen mediciones previas y posteriores a la intervención de los miembros del grupo experimental, y se comparan con las mediciones correspondientes a un grupo de control, utilizando la regresión jerárquica y el análisis mediante un modelo lineal mixto. Las funciones ejecutivas se evalúan mediante la Evaluación Conductual de la Función Ejecutiva-Versión Infantil (BRIEF-P). Los resultados del estudio muestran que el programa de intervención tiene un impacto significativo en todas las variables de función ejecutiva analizadas, con grandes tamaños de efecto (f de Cohen y g de Hedges). Las funciones ejecutivas son esenciales para muchas de las aptitudes necesarias en la vida adulta, como la memoria, la creatividad, la flexibilidad, el autocontrol y el cumplimiento de las reglas y normas. Por esta razón, existe una necesidad real de crear programas que promuevan el desarrollo de estas funciones en las primeras etapas de la vida. Los programas validados como el Programa de entrenamiento en funciones ejecutivas en Educación Infantil pueden ser llevados a cabo por el profesorado dentro del plan de estudios estándar, utilizando materiales que están fácilmente disponibles en las escuelas.
Article
Intervention to improve executive functions is crucial in preschool education because preschoolers benefit most from intervention programs. The objective of this study is to present the results obtained from implementing the "Executive Function Training Program in Preschool" (EFE-P), which is claimed to improve inhibitory control, working memory and cognitive flexibility. The participants in this study are 100 children aged five to six years, drawn from two schools in Granada (Spain). In order to assess the impact of the program, pre- and post-intervention measurements are obtained from members of the experimental group, and these compared with corresponding measurements for a control group, using hierarchical regression and linear mixed model analysis. Executive functions are evaluated using the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function–Preschool Version (BRIEF-P). The study results show that the intervention program has a significant impact on all the executive function variables analyzed, with large effect sizes (Cohen’s f and Hedges’ g). Executive functions are essential for many of the skills required in adult life, such as memory, creativity, flexibility, self-control and compliance with rules and norms. For this reason, there is a real need to create programs that promote the development of these functions in the early stages of life. Programs such as EFE-P can be implemented by teachers within the standard curriculum, using materials that are readily available in schools.
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Self-regulation and social cognition flourish as children begin school and engage with a new social environment. At the same time, this novel setting provides more complex social situations that children must navigate, including understanding when others may be lying to them. Social cognition and self regulatory abilities, such as Theory of Mind (ToM) and executive function (EF) respectively, may aid children in understanding such advanced social situations by helping children consider others’ viewpoints and focus on problem solving (Garte, 2016; Kultti & Pramling, 2015; Winsler, Fernyhough, & Montero, 2009). In order to investigate these possible relations, children between the ages of 3 and 5 (N = 92, M = 51.42 months, SD = 8.86, range = 37 to 69 months; 49 males; 38 3-year-olds, 31 4-year-olds, 23 5-year-olds) completed a battery of EF skills, ToM, and implausible lie detection measures. Results indicated that EF skills significantly predicted implausible lie detection, over and above both age and ToM. Findings are discussed in terms of the unique contribution that self-regulation skills, such as EF, make to young children’s blossoming implausible lie detection ability.
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