Musical ways to support inhibitory control

Inhibitory control is one of our executive function skills. It’s the skill that allows us to consciously direct our behavior, instead of acting on autopilot. It’s also how we resist an unhelpful impulse or a temptation. Executive function researcher Adele Diamond writes, “[I]nhibitory control makes it possible for us to change and for us to choose how we react and how we behave rather than being unthinking creatures of habit” (Diamond, 2013).

Inhibitory control is hard to say. (Really. Try it!) It’s also hard to master–especially for young children! Children learn inhibitory control over time, like other executive function skills. They learn best with help from trusted adults in their lives. So how can we help children practice inhibitory control? Our latest set of tip sheets suggests one fun strategy: using music! We created these free resources in partnership with expert educators at MacPhail Center for Music. The tip sheets explain the theory behind inhibitory control. They also give practical tips on using music in your work with children.

Related: Don’t miss another set of tip sheets created in partnership with MacPhail: Introducing It: The Benefits of Music Integration to Emotional Regulation Development in Young Children and Applying It: Engaging in Musical Play with Young Children. Check out all of our tip sheets for more topics of relevance to early childhood educators.


Diamond, A. (2013). Executive functions. Annual Review of Psychology, 64, 135-68.

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