Preschool is an exciting time for children as they are learning a lot of new information and are exposed to new life experiences. Children enter preschool with varying skills, life experiences and cultural backgrounds. One goal of preschool programs across the nation is to help children develop social and emotional skills that provide them with the skills they need to navigate peer relationships. Precursors of self-regulation appear early in life and continue to grow as children engage in life experiences at home and at school.
Children in preschool are often still developing self-regulation skills which are essential for peer play experiences. Self-regulation is the ability to monitor and control our own behavior, emotions, or thoughts, altering them in accordance with the demands of the situation.
As children are developing this skill set, they may lack the ability to regulate their own emotions and behaviors causing them to make socially unacceptable choices such as hitting, kicking, throwing toys and biting peers and teachers. As adults, we are able to help foster their development by responding to children in a calm, respectful manner to teach them the appropriate behaviors that are socially acceptable.
Although there are many different parenting styles, I think we can all agree that a common goal is to help our children flourish into well-adjusted adults. So how can you help your child develop self-regulation skills at home? Below you will find a few fun games you can play with your child to support social and emotional development.
Games to support Self-Regulation
Red Light, Purple Light
This game follows the same concept as “red light, green light”. Using different colors for stop and requires children to regulate their responses and adapt to the change. First assign “go” and “stop” to non-sequential colors (ex: purple and orange). Use construction paper as a visual. Alternate the “stop” and “go” colors. Once the children grow accustomed to the colors and their corresponding meaning, make changes so that children must once again regulate their responses.
This activity requires that children override an automatic response, and therefore exhibit self-regulation. Begin by having your child point to their head, shoulders, knees and toes. Have your child touch each body part in a variety of sequences to get accustomed to the game. Then have your child override their automatic response by asking students to point to incongruent body parts. For example, tell students “when I say to touch your head, touch your TOES!!” or “When I say touch your tummy, touch your EARS.”
The Freeze Game
This game requires music! You will play the music and then when you stop the music your child must freeze and be still as statues in whatever position they froze in. You can play a variety of different music. Your child must dance quickly to upbeat and fast songs, and they must dance slowly and gracefully to the slow songs. Then when they have gotten the hang of that, switch it up and have them dance slowly to the fast songs and quickly to the slow songs.
Red Light, Green Light
You can start out as the stoplight until your child gets the hang of the game then you can switch roles. Start as the spotlight and your child will be the car. When the stoplight yells “Green light!” your child run towards the stoplight. When the stoplight yells “Red light!” your child must stop. If your child doesn’t stop, they must go back to the starting line. A popular variation is to include a “Yellow light!” where children must walk instead of run. Excellent for developing self-regulation skills because children must learn to pay attention, follow directions, and wait their turn.