What is Self-Regulation?
When we talk about self-regulation in kids, we’re referring to the ability to maintain an arousal level that is appropriate for any given situation. Self-regulation also involves having the ability to generate appropriate behavioral and sensory responses to the input in the environment and the ability to demonstrate self control: to monitor and control behavior, attention, motor output, emotions, and social interactions.
Self-regulation examples might include a child maintaining his composure and problem-solving or asking for help when another child takes his toy or being able to recognize that he should keep his voice quiet in the library. Self regulation in the classroom or school might include a child being able to attend and stay at his desk while the teacher is talking or being able to stay with his class and walk in line in the hallway.
It sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? That’s because self-regulation is extremely complex. It involves cognition, the sensory systems, behavior…and so much more! Many children struggle with one or more of these areas, making self-regulation challenging.
How Can You Tell if Your Child is Struggling With Self-Regulation?
Kids who are having difficulty with self-regulation, may present in several different ways. They may:
-Act overly silly or “out of control”
-Have tantrums or meltdowns
-Have difficulty waiting or taking turns
-Demonstrate problems during social interactions (e.g. talking too loud, standing too close, touching others)
-Move too quickly or with too much force
-Grab or touch objects impulsively
How to Help Kids Develop Self-Regulation
Even though self-regulation can be a challenging skill for many children, research has shown that games and fun activities can be effective in promoting the ability to self-regulate for children who are struggling.
Games that support planning and problem solving, memory, attention, motor control, and sequencing can help kids develop the ability to self-regulate despite challenging situations and circumstances. Calming techniques, self-awareness exercises, and mindfulness activities can also be effective in supporting the development of self-regulation. These 30 games and activities can be great ways to introduce self regulation strategies with kids!
Games and Activities for Self-Regulation
1 || Red Light, Green Light
2 || Simon says
4 || Duck Duck Goose
5 || Freeze tag
7 || Hide and seek
9 || Freeze dance
10 || Musical Chairs
13 || “Counting down” or anticipation activities (e.g. setting out a beanbag chair and helping the child wait by counting down – “3…2…1…JUMP!” and then jumping onto the bean bag chair. And then repeating the activity so the child knows to wait before jumping)
16 || Dancing – practice dancing fast and slow to different types of music
18 || Balloon volleyball
22 || Sequencing motor tasks (e.g. do 3 jumps, then 2 hops, then stand on one foot for 3 seconds)
26 || Meditation
27 || Yoga
If you haven’t read the book, Self-Reg by Stuart Shanker – do yourself a favor and pick up your copy today!. This is an awesome read for anyone who lives or works with kids!
Learn more about how to support the development of self-regulation in this resource from The National Association for the Education of Young Children.
Check out these powerful strategies for avoiding tantrums during transitions and these 4 Surprising Ways to Support a Child’s Self-Regulation.
What are your favorite games and activities for supporting regulation in kids? Share them in the comments below!And discover the sense of interoception, a lesser known sensory system that can have a big impact on self-regulation.
Want to learn more about the sensory systems and how sensory processing difficulties may be contributing to behavior and self-regulation problems in kids? Check out our book, Sensory Processing 101!
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