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February 15

7 Self-Regulation Activities for Preschoolers

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Self-regulation, or the ability to control our emotions and behavior, is an essential life skill that all kids should be taught from an early age, ideally before they go off to school.

Several studies have highlighted the benefits of teaching self-regulation to toddlers, the most prominent of which is a recent paper published by Michigan State University. It states that the sooner children learn to self regulate, the more successful they are in their classroom learning and social life.

Many of you may already know the importance of self-regulation. But where many parents are left scratching their heads is how to help their child develop self-regulation skills at home.

That’s what we’re hoping to change with this simple plan. With a dedicated self-regulation activity for each day of the week, along with the ideal length for each session, getting started is as easy as following this simple plan.

So let’s get started.

1. Mother May I Mondays

Start the week with Mother May I, which is a fun game that teaches children discipline, manners, and the concept of taking turns. Here’s how it works:

  1. One person is elected the leader for 10 minutes (you should elect yourself for the first turn)
  2. The rest of the participants ask questions starting with “Mother May I take….” a certain amount of hops, steps, jumps, or leaps to get to the leader
  3. The leader can approve or disapprove a request
  4. If a player asks a question without saying “Mother May I” or moves from their position without permission from the leader, they must go back to the starting line
  5. At the end of the 10 minutes, the player closest to the leader wins the game

Every Monday, play three rounds of this game in 30 minutes (that’s roughly 10 minutes each). Just don’t forget to choose a different leader for each turn to keep things fun.

2. Traffic Lights Tuesdays

Traffic Lights is another fun game with the same objective of reaching the leader who plays the role of traffic police this time. The cop stands at a distance from the rest of the players and gives them one of the following commands:

  1. Green light: signaling the players to move forward
  2. Red light: signaling the players to stop

If the cop catches any player disobeying their command, they send the offending player back to the starting point.

Every Tuesday, play at least 5 rounds of this game, which should take forty-five minutes to an hour in total.

3. Wacky Relay Wednesdays

Every Wednesday, pair up your child with other kids in a challenging one-hour session of Wacky Relay activities — any activity that involves two children carrying an object from point A to point B using designated body parts. For instance, two kids carrying a ball using only one hand each.

Such activities improve your child’s social skills, teamwork, and gross motor skills.

4. Teaching Songs Thursdays

Thursday is karaoke day! So put on your kid’s favorite songs, poems, or rhymes, and start singing along while encouraging your child to do the same.

But how does this help your child with self-regulation? Several studies have shown that children who listen to and sing nursery rhymes have better self-regulation than their counterparts.

We recommend spending at least 15 minutes singing with your kid, even if it’s not as fun as you imagined.

5. Freeze Dance Fridays

Gather the whole family on Fridays for a Freeze Dance competition. The rules are simple:

  1. One person should be in charge of turning the music on and off as they like
  2. Everyone must dance when the music is on
  3. As soon as the music goes off, everyone must stop dancing and hold still until the music starts playing again
  4. Whoever moves when the music is off or stands still when the music is on gets eliminated
  5. The winner is the last person dancing

To up the stakes, you can give a prize to the winner, like a delicious treat, a custom-made trophy, or anything else that makes the participants more dedicated to winning.

6. Simon Says Saturdays

The classic game Simon Says is the most effective activity for improving your child’s self-regulation skills because it has the following three requirements:

  1. Paying attention
  2. Listening carefully
  3. Following directions

A one-hour session of this game once or twice a week has been proven to lead to better academic performance.

7. Spot It Sundays

End the week with a small session (15 to 30 minutes) of Spot It, an Amazon top-selling card game that works like this:

  1. Each player is given a deck of cards
  2. Four holders are placed in a horizontal row, with each card facing the same direction
  3. All players flip their cards at the same time and try to spot a symbol that appears both on their top card and on any one of the 4 cards in the holders facing them
  4. When a player spots a symbol, they must call the name of the symbol out loud before placing their card face-up in front of the matching holder card
  5. Whoever gets rid of all their cards first wins the game

If you don’t want to buy this game, you can create your own cards at home using printed images and paper cards.

Following this plan just for three weeks will show significant improvements in your child’s behavior. They will be less impulsive, more mindful, and in an overall better mood.


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