"Executive functions" (EFs) are the cognitive control abilities dependent on prefrontal cortex (PFC) such as selective attention and self-regulation. They make possible mentally playing with ideas, thinking before acting, resisting temptations, staying focused, problem-solving, and meeting novel, unanticipated challenges. These abilities are amenable to improvement through training and practice throughout life -- even in very young children without specialists or fancy equipment. Diverse activities have been shown to improve EFs. Some characteristics of those activities will be discussed. EFs are also particularly susceptible to disruption by stress, sadness, loneliness, lack of sleep, or lack of exercise. Conversely, it turns out that what nourishes the
human spirit may also be best for executive functions. It's also important to look at a child who is not doing well in one environment, or with one approach, might shine in another environment or with a different approach.