© 2019 The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.The striatum has long been associated with cognitive functions, but the mechanisms behind this are still unclear. Here we tested a new hypothesis that the striatum contributes to executive function (EF) by strengthening cortico-cortical connections. Striatal connectivity was evaluated by measuring the resting-state functional connectivity between ventral and dorsal striatum in 570 individuals, aged 3-20 years. Using structural equation modeling, we found that inter-individual differences in striatal connectivity had an indirect effect (via fronto-parietal functional connectivity) and a direct effect on a compound EF measure of working memory, inhibition, and set-shifting/flexibility. The effect of fronto-parietal connectivity on cognition did not depend on age: the influence was as strong in older as younger children. In contrast, striatal connectivity was closely related to changes in cognitive ability during childhood development, suggesting a specific role of the striatum in cognitive plasticity. These results support a new principle for striatal functioning, according to which striatum promotes cognitive development by strengthening of cortico-cortical connectivity.