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Beyond BookSmart Blog: Executive Functioning Strategies

May 16, 2014 12:05:00 PM

5 Must-Have Apps for Improving Executive Functioning in Children


Children who struggle with executive functioning skills such as organization, planning, time management, and working memory perform much better when they have the assistance of a parent, teacher, or coach to help them apply these skills. This can be problematic when a child has five homework assignments due within two days and can’t even figure out how to get started. Unfortunately, personal support is not always available to help children know how, when, and where effectively to use their executive functioning skills.

Fortunately there are a variety of powerful apps and technologies for improving executive functioning in children who may have weak executive functioning skills. While these apps will not transform children who walk around with a messy backpack filled with decaying, month-old lunches into highly organized and efficient people, they provide some support and scaffolding that can enhance children's overall executive functioning. The key is for parents and educators to identify areas of executive weakness and then to find apps that practice and support those skills. The following are five of our favorites for supporting planning, working memory, organization, and time management.


Planning - 30/30

App for planning & prioritizing - 30/30

30/30 is an app designed to help users prioritize and track the amount of time they spend on individual tasks or smaller parts of a larger undertaking. The app relies on the idea that individuals are more productive when taking short breaks in between work. Users can program a series of tasks into 30/30, timing how long they spend dedicating effort and moving on to a new task when the app indicates time has expired. Find out more in our 30/30 app review.



Working Memory App - Quizlet

best app to improve working memory - Quizlet

Whether it’s for memorizing literary terms or historical figures, flashcards are one of the most helpful learning tools. Quizlet is an app and a website that allows children to create their own digital flashcards so they can learn their terms and definitions. They app is great for studying on the go, while the online version is better for inputting the information. The app even offers mini-games to make the process more engaging. Flashcards can be organized by class and subject, making Quizlet one of the best apps for working memory. See our Quizlet review for all the information.



Organization App - YouNote!

App for keeping notes organized - YouNote

YouNote! is a unique and creative take on traditional note-taking apps. This app allows users to take notes using a variety of different methods, ensuring that learners of all different types can stay organized. Users who benefit from learning visually can take advantage of YouNote!’s ability to take notes using hand-drawn images. For those who learn better from auditory cues, this app also allows users to take voice-recorded notes. Notes can be tagged and sorted for easy access later. This app can be extremely helpful for keeping track of important information from school, home, or the workplace. Discover more in our YouNote! review.



Organization App - Google Calendar

Google Calendar

Google Calendar is software available from nearly any computer or mobile device that allows a single user or group of users to create and maintain a digital calendar of events. Keeping track of upcoming assignments, obligations, or important appointments through Google Calendar can help users keep a hectic and busy life organized. The program can be synced across multiple devices or shared with a group to ensure that everyone in the family, class, or workplace can stay organized and on the same page. Find out more in our Google Calendar review.



Time Management App - InClass

Time Management App - InClass

For a more academic approach to time management, consider downloading InClass. This scheduling app is geared towards middle-school, high-school, and college-aged students and lets users add class times, professors, homework, and due dates to their calendar. It is also a handy study tool, as it lets users attach recorded content, files, and notes to each reminder, For older kids starting to manage large school work loads, InClass offers an excellent way to help them stay on top of assignments. Check out ourInClass review for all the details.


Randy Kulman, Ph.D. is the Founder and President of LearningWorks for Kids , an educational technology company that specializes in using video games to teach executive-functioning and academic skills. For the past 25 years, Dr. Kulman has also been the Clinical Director and President of South County Child and Family Consultants, a multidisciplinary group of private practitioners that specializes in assessment and interventions for children with learning disorders and attention difficulties. He is an advisor and occasional writer for,and also writes columns for Inside ADHD and the South County Independent.  He is the author of two books;  Train Your Brain for Success: A Teenager’s Guide to Executive Functions and Playing Smarter in a Digital World. Dr. Kulman can be contacted at




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Here is a short summary of each of the executive functioning skills:

  • Planning is the ability to put together a strategy for attaining a goal. It includes analyzing what you need and what steps you should take to complete task.
  • Organization is the ability to develop and maintain a system to keep materials and plans orderly. That includes a system for homework, keeping track of assignments/papers, and being organized at home, too.
  • Time Management means having an accurate understanding of how long it will take to complete tasks and being able to use time effectively to actually finish those tasks on schedule.
  • Task Initiation is the ability to independently start tasks when needed. It means being able to start something even when you really don’t want to.
  • Working Memory is the mental process that allows us to hold information in our minds while we are working with it. Examples include computing math problems mentally and remembering information for short periods of time during research or note-taking.
  • Metacognition means knowing what you know and what you don’t know. It’s a critical skill for assessing your progress on tasks and changing your methods as you go. Metacognition is also the skill that allows you to stop yourself when you are stuck before going ahead too far.
  • Self-control is the ability regulate yourself, including your thoughts, actions, and emotions. This means being able to manage your anger and wait your turn to share. Not only is this skill critical for academic success, but social success, too.
  • Sustained Attention is being able to focus on a person or task for a period of time. It includes being able to avoid distractions and shifting your focus when needed.
  • Flexibility means being able to adapt to new situations and dealing with change. Changes that cause difficulty might include a schedule change or when a plan doesn’t come together for a project.
  • Perseverance is sticking to a task and not giving up, even when it becomes challenging. Further, it’s being able to use strategies to get through a task, regardless of the roadblocks that pop up along the way.