Young children engage cognitive control reactively in response to events, rather than proactively preparing for events. Such limitations in executive control have been explained in terms of fundamental constraints on children's cognitive capacities. Alternatively, young children might be capable of proactive control but differ from older children in their metacognitive decisions regarding when to engage proactive control. We examined these possibilities in three conditions of a task-switching paradigm, varying in whether task cues were available before or after target onset. RTs, ERPs, and pupil dilation showed that 5-year-olds did engage in advance preparation, a critical aspect of proactive control, but only when reactive control was made more difficult, whereas 10-year-olds engaged in proactive control whenever possible. These findings highlight metacognitive processes in children's cognitive control, an understudied aspect of executive control development.

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