6 Games on Self-Regulation that Kids will Enjoy - The Rainbow Mama
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6 Games on Self-Regulation that Kids will Enjoy


6 Games on Self-Regulation that Kids will Enjoy

“By constant self-discipline and self control, you can develop greatness of character.”

-Grenville Kleise

Games on self-regulation is probably the best way to help kids develop their control. The earlier kids learn to manage their emotions and behavior, the more successful they will be in school and in life.

After all, kids learn more effectively and faster when they enjoy, right?

According to Donna Wilson and Marcus Conyers, the developers of the Drive Your Brain program and authors of the book Teaching Students to Drive Their Brains: Metacognitive Strategies, Activities and Lesson Ideas, “learning self-regulation is one of the key skills young children need to start on the path to academic success.”

More than this, self-regulation is one crucial factor that will help a child achieve goals and be successful in life.

Unfortunately, the term self-regulation brings confusion to many. While self-control is easily understood, self-regulation is not easily so, which is why it is often overlooked as parents rear their children.

What is Self-Regulation?

Dr. Stewart Shanker, a research professor at York University says “self-regulation refers to how well we manage stress, how much energy we expend, and how well we recover.”

It is the ability to monitor and control your own emotions, thoughts and behaviors into ways that are appropriate and acceptable.

With self-regulation, children can produce positive results such as achieving well-being, establishing positive relationships and learning.

This is an essential skill in life that will enable children to function effectively in any setting and help them achieve goals, thus becoming successful.

As compared to self-control:

  • Self-control: inhibiting strong impulses
  • Self-regulation: reducing the frequency and intensity of strong impulses by managing stress-load and recovery

According to Psychology Today, self-regulation is what makes self-control possible.

More importantly, in most cases, self-regulation makes self-control unnecessary.

What is the Importance of Self-Regulation?

Self-regulation is responsible for managing and controlling emotions, thoughts and behaviors.

And why is this important in life?

  • It helps children learn effectively in school by letting them listen and sit through their classes.
  • It helps children behave in socially acceptable ways since it is responsible for controlling impulses.
  • It helps children make friends and establish positive relationships, specifically because they learn how to take turns playing and express their feelings in appropriate ways.
  • It helps children become more independent by developing their skills at decision-making with regards to their behavior, especially in new situations.
  • It helps children manage stress effectively by teaching them to calm themselves and enabling them to cope with strong feelings.

What are some Self-Regulation Games to Play?

Learning the importance of self-regulation emphasizes the need for its development in the early stages of children’s lives. And you can easily help your children achieve it by playing these games with them.


1. Simon Says

This is a pretty simple game to play but it requires quite a bit of focus, quick thinking and the ability to control impulses. To start, you can be “Simon”, who shouts out the commands to your children. When you say “Simon says” before a command, your kids need obey. But if you don’t preface your commands with “Simon says” they should ignore what you say.

You can have the game in elimination mode where the children who did not do what “Simon said” or did what Simon did not say to do are disqualified from the game.

This is probably more difficult for the younger kids since there is an element of pressure to the game, but older kids will surely enjoy this type of play.

You can also play using a points system where children who successfully enacted commands are given a point and after a set number of rounds the score is tallied.

This gives more chances for younger kids to make up for not properly doing what Simon says to try again the next round.

2. Freeze Dance or Statue Dance

This game has less rules than Simon Says but is also a lot of fun to play with children.

It’s like a dance party but you tell the kids that when the music stops playing, they must stop dancing and stay absolutely still.

The first one to move or does not stop dancing when the music stopped will be eliminated.

The winner would be the last kid dancing.

This game teaches kids to focus on getting to the next round by not moving.

It also teaches them to control their impulse to do something like scratching their noses or moving their fingers, which children often do spontaneously.

3. Musical Chairs

This is another classic game where music is central to the game’s mechanics.

Set up chairs in a circle, enough for all participants but one.

Then play a song and instruct your kids to dance or walk around the chairs at the same distance, and when the song stops playing, they are to head to the nearest empty chair and sit on it.

They should not to stop walking or dancing while there is still music and they are not allowed to go nearer the chair than the others until it stops.

This game is a good practice for switching focus from one task to another.

The first task to focus on is listening for when the music stops while dancing.

When that task is done, the second task is moving to the nearest empty chair.

Since this game could be quite chaotic when there are still many players, the application of focus will let the children have fun while developing their mental alertness.

There is also the fact that multiple impulses are simultaneously being repressed, like the impulse to just stop dancing and wait for the music to stop or the compulsion to inch nearer to a chair in violation of the rules of the game.

4. Traffic Lights

In this game, one of your children gets to play the role of the traffic cop while the others are the pedestrians.

This can be played indoors or outdoors. If indoors, the pedestrians start on the other side of the room. If outdoors, a line can be drawn to represent “the other side of the street”. The “cop” faces the side opposite the pedestrians and shouts “Green!” or “Red!”.

If the light is green, the pedestrians can move. If it is red, they need to stop moving. Anyone caught still moving will be sent back to the starting point.

The game ends when one of the players touches the cop.

This game teaches children many things. It makes for good training in switching their focus from moving to not moving. It can also hone their ability to control their instincts since the cop may yell “Red” one time and then follow it up with another “Red” to trip up the players.

5. Jenga

Who doesn’t know how to play this building blocks game? It’s so much fun building up the tower and watching as it slowly topples with the removal of many key pieces.

It requires really steady hands and careful planning of the moves you are going to make. Aside from strategizing, one of the key contributions of Jenga to self-regulation is teaching kids to control behavior. It’s frustrating to lose, and when your children play with good players, they can lose a lot of times. But that blow is softened by the fun feeling when they see the tower fall.

This game teaches children to control their anger and frustration, and can turn a sore loser into a good sport. Many kids who have had huge meltdowns over small things have learned to be calm and rational in the face of stressors when they played Jenga.

6. Orchestra

In this game, one child plays the conductor while his siblings or friends play the orchestra. For ease of gameplay, you can give the children percussion instruments like toy drums or xylophones.

The conductor will stand at the front like a real conductor would and brandish his baton (a stick or a pen would do). The conductor would wave the baton slower or faster and the beat of the percussions would change accordingly.

Kids will learn to start working with others, while focusing on the speed of the waving of the conductor’s wand.

They also learn to suppress impulses to beat the drums to their own rhythm and start playing according to the rhythm set by someone else.

This is also good practice for the conductor in controlling his emotions as it can be pretty annoying to have others playing one speed and others playing another.

He needs to calm himself down and pull back his frustrations in order to have the orchestra working together again.

These are just 6 fun games that will help children reach self-regulation developmental milestones, which, according to a study by Elena Savina, PhD, helps children learn to inhibit their impulsive behavior and follow rules.

These games also help children develop internal representations which will guide their behavior.

Your child’s self-regulation is also linked to his executive functioning. So, aside from the above games, helping your child develop his executive function skills will also greatly improve his ability to self-regulate.

Related: 5 Ways to Help your Child Improve his Executive Function Skills

It’s not easy being a parent.

But you don’t have to be a perfect parent to help your child become the best that he can be.

Just be positive and learn from your setbacks so you can develop a better relationship with your child.

Before you know it, there’s less frustrations and misunderstandings but more laughter and fun in your home!



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