Executive Function in Infancy and Early Childhood: Supporting Skills for Success

Executive function skills are the brain processes involved in controlling our behavior and carrying out our goals. In infancy and early childhood, these skills lay an important foundation for later success in school and social relationships. Learn about how these essential skills develop, as well as intervention strategies to support children’s developing executive function skills in the first six years of life.


Earn 42 clock hours

Cost $435 registration fee plus required materials

Next offering to be determined.

Learning objectives

  • Learn what executive function is and how to explain executive function skills in a way that’s accessible to others.
  • Understand the developmental progression of executive function skills from infancy to early childhood.
  • Learn how executive function skills are related to positive outcomes across development, such as academic knowledge, social skills, and resilience.
  • Gain an understanding of the factors that impact the development of executive function skills.
  • Learn how executive function issues are related to developmental disorders and mental health problems.
  • Review intervention strategies to support executive function development and reflect on how they can be used in your own work with young children.

Who should register

  • Early childhood educators
  • Parents of young children
  • Other professionals working with young children

What to expect

  • The course is instructor-led with feedback and interactions provided.
  • All activities and assignments for this course are asynchronous and online. Nothing takes place in real time.
  • You have access to the course site 24/7 and can fit your work on the course into your schedule.
  • Activities and assignments include readings, videos, discussion board, recording videos using an online tool called FlipGrid, and reflection papers.
  • You are expected to participate fully and abide by weekly submission due dates for assignments and activities.

Knowledge and competency areas

The early childhood competencies are those used by MN – ACHIEVE’s knowledge and competencies framework.

  • Child development and learning
  • Promoting cognitive development
  • Observing, recording, and assessing development

Meet the instructor

Rebecca Distefano

Rebecca Distefano is a PhD candidate in child psychology at the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development. Her research focuses on the social influences of executive function development, with an emphasis on how parents support executive function development in high-risk contexts, such as poverty and homelessness. She has supplemented her Ph.D. studies with numerous courses in prevention science, with the goal of designing and implementing interventions to bolster resilience in children and parents. Much of her work is done collaboratively with local community partners serving at-risk families, including People Serving People, Simpson Housing, and FamilyWise. In addition to research, Rebecca has taught undergraduate classes in child psychology at the University of Minnesota and enjoys mentoring research assistants in the Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience Lab and Project Competence Research on Risk and Resilience.

Required textbook

There is no required textbook for this course. All of the readings will be posted to the course website.

Cancellation policy

  • Cancellation before Day 1 of the session: Full refund less $35 administrative fee
  • Cancellation Day 1 Week 1 through Day 1 Week 2: 75% refund less $35 administrative fee
  • Cancellation Day 2 Week 2 forward: No refund will be provided.

To cancel, send an email to Karen Anderson at ander352@umn.edu.

CEED reserves the right to refuse/cancel a registration due to low enrollment, a prerequisite not completed, or other circumstances making the registration nonviable. In the event of a course cancellation, registrants have the option to receive a full refund OR to transfer the registration to the same course held in a future session. CEED will accept substitutions for attendees.