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 sensory responses to the input in the environment and the ability to monitor and control behavior, attention, motor output, emotions, and social interactions.
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.
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, then slow, then freeze!
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
Learn more about how to support the development of self-regulation in this resource from The National Association for the Education of Young Children.
What are your favorite games and activities for supporting regulation in kids? Share them in the comments below!