You may have heard about the Stanford marshmallow test; the one where young children are presented with the option of eating a big, fluffy delicious marshmallow right now, or if they delay gratification and wait, they will be rewarded with two fluffy marshmallows! Well, I am uncertain that I would not have opted to eat that delicious marshmallow immediately, but studies reveal that the group able to delay gratification performed better in school. Why? Self-regulation is essential for learning. Self-regulation simply put is the ability to regulate emotions, behavior and thinking. Young children are not particularly adept at this regulation, but there are some simple steps teachers and parents can take to help promote this skill. There are many domains of self-regulation but for the purposes of a quick blog post, the ideas presented here will be somewhat general.
Self-regulation is a gradual process; one that should never be forced but developed over time in natural ways at school and at home. Luckily skill enhancement in this area also happens to be very enjoyable. What is key? Some of the things we love best at LANK; games and dramatic play!
1. Matching Games
Matching games work well to increase self-regulation because the player has to use working memory to hold the image/attribute in mind in order to find the correct match. When the child plays in pairs or teams, his/her memory must also “keep hold” of the previous choice. Add the task of anticipating a turn; tons of self-regulation practice!
2. Traditional Games
Red Light/Green Light, Duck, Duck Goose, Hide-n Seek, Simon Says, all of these games require the difficult task of waiting, and being attentive. A simple traditional game of Hide and Go Seek requires planning (where shall I hide?) and waiting quietly (if I make noise I will be found). I remember enjoying this game with my own children. When first played, their hiding places were always very apparent. But, over time the children begin to realize and plan for more complex hiding places, while also staying quieter for longer periods. Planning is one aspect of self-regulation that is very important and develops slowly over time.
Oh, how children love Red Light, Green Light! Add yellow into the mix, and children have the opportunity to practice slow, fast, and stopping movements. It can be difficult to stop on command, so a child must use great concentration, and be listening/observing the cues of the leader. There is usually someone in the group that just can’t seem to stop on red, but when asked to go back to the starting line, even the most eager player realizes the importance of following the commands.
3. Dramatic or Make-Believe Play
Children pretend or act out prescribed roles (mother, brother, doctor, sister, baker) which allows them an opportunity to regulate and consider a range of emotions. When the child takes on a role during imaginative play, he/she is practicing using a voice, tone, and emotional output of another. It is hard work to remember the pretend role and play act appropriately. So if the class is pretending to have a bakery, and one student suddenly pretends to be a singer, the play may come to halt. What a great way to explore emotional regulation! In addition, dramatic play allows the child(ren) to create their own rules for the game while considering the wishes
of others. Conversational turn taking also has to prevail which is the perfect exercise for self-regulation.
At LANK we are helping your child to develop the emotional, cognitive, and sensory regulation they will use now and in later school years. To do so in a natural way is also joyful.