Developing Self-Regulation in Kindergarten Can We Keep All the Crickets in the Basket?
Building the Brain’s “Air Traffic Control” System: How Early Experiences Shape the Development of Executive Function
Refocus the class with a series of claps with a certain pattern. The routine with capture student’s attention and create a shared focus. This exercise can be enhanced with stomps, hand movements focused on fine motor skill development, or increasingly complex rules, depending on the students’ age.
Conducting an Orchestra
This activity requires the use of musical instruments. The teacher will have a long stick or ruler that and will act like an orchestra leader, conducting when they will play their instruments. The teacher will wave the conductors wand quickly or slowly and have students play according to her movements. Then, the teacher will have students override their automatic response by indicating that students should play slowly when she waves the conductors wand quickly, and vice versa.
For this activity, the students will use drum cues from the teacher to do certain body movements. For example, “When the drums plays, clap or stomp” “When the drum plays slowly, walk around the room slowly” “When the drum plays quickly, walk around quickly”. The teacher will then invert the response instructing “When the drum plays quickly, walk around slowly” When the drum plays slowly, walk around quickly.
The class will get to stamp their feet and make lots of noise in this one, but it is all regulated by the teacher. The teacher
Puts a hand to his ear and says “What’s that I hear?” The class responds by saying “Elephant Stampede!” The teacher then says where are the elephants? I can barely hear them!” The class responds with “Far away!” and begins quietly stamping their feet on the floor to mimic the sound of elephants in the distance. The teacher repeats his lines, adjusting for how close the elephants are, until the herd arrives in the classroom. Now the students can make elephant trumpets and stamp their feet as hard as they can until the teacher begins to quiet them down by saying “Oh good, they’re going away!” The children respond by stamping their feet more softly, and continue to respond to the teacher until the elephant herd has left the building.
Tell students to lie on their backs on the floor, their arms by their sides and legs uncrossed, and eyes closed. Tell them (in a soft gentle voice) to imagine that their bodies are very heavy and sinking to the floor. Start to mention different body parts: toes, ankles, wrists, necks, eyelids. Then tell them to imagine that they are laying on a warm beach on a sunny day and that they can hear waves, seagulls, then once they have calmed down they may only sit up and open their eyes. This will help students calm their emotional and refocus.
Count to Ten
The teacher stands at the front of the class and raises both hands above her head, spread open and facing the class. The students raise their hands over their heads, fingers spread, and facing the teacher. The teacher begins counting slowly from one to ten, and at ten lowers her hands to her sides. The class follows until everyone is back in the position they started in.
Drawing a picture helps to relax children. Try giving your students a prompt! For example, “draw how you feel right now.” This helps children to recognize their emotions whether good or bad and process them in a healthy manner. Part of self regulation is learning to deal with your emotions in the appropriate manners and this activity sets up a calming environment for kids to learn to do this. Aside from processing emotions, drawing helps children and adults process any circumstance and is very calming to the mind!
Have students decorate a square piece of paper that they then glue to a popsicle stick. Explain that this square is to be used when the student feels overwhelmed or frustrated. The square will be divided up into 4 sections representing 4 different steps they are to follow.
1st step: Breathe in while counting to 4
2nd step: Hold breath for four seconds
3rd step: Breathe out for four seconds
4th step: repeat three times
Emotion Regulation Swing-O-Meter
This craft could accompany a lesson aimed at helping students understand, and therefore control, their emotions Swing-O-Meter.
A craft that will increase students’ understanding of their own emotions, and create opportunities within the classroom for them to evaluate their emotions. Popsicle faces / Other emotion faces
Paper Plate Emotions
Another craft aimed increasing students’ Emotion Regulation Paper Plate Emotions
How Big Is My Problem Chart
Post a chart in the classroom that is numbered from zero to five, with zero at the bottom and five at the top. Each number will be colored along a gradient staing at green for level one, and moving to red for level five.
Level Five is red, and labelled Emergency” and refers to only true emergencies such as tornadoes or earthquakes. A grimacing frowny face is drawn next to the description.
Level Four is orange and labeled “Gigantic Problem” and describes something that needs immediate attention from a teacher and can’t be fixed by the student such as getting lost or being injured on the playground. A crying forwny face is drawn next to the descrition.
Level Three is yellow and labelled “Big Problem” and describes something that definitely needs the teacher’s attention such as a fight. A “Charlie Brown” frowny face is drawn next to the description.
Level Two is blue and labeled “Medium Problem” and describes something more important that probably needs a response from the teacher such as not feeling well or lost homework. A somber smiley face is drawn next to the description.
Level One is light green and labeled “Little Problem” and describes a bigger issue such as needing to sharpen a pencil or needing to go to the restroom. A normal smiley face is drawn next to the description.
Level Zero is dark green and labeled “No Big Deal” and describes very small issues such as dropping a pen or a shoelace coming untied. A grinning smiley face is drawn next to the description.
Teachers can ask students to describe the problem level when they have a problem and work towards an appropriate response to it. Students should be reminded that they can use this chart for all of their problems in life to help judge what they should do when trouble occurs.
- The Emotional Regulation page on the Kid’s Relaxation website provides a multitude of emotion regulation activities for children.
- This link will connect you to the blog of a psychologist and mother who specializes in play therapy. She shares activities which help children to become more aware of their emotions.
Think or Say?
The teacher will create a list of potential student comments to present to the students. Students will then determine if the comment should be said aloud simply thought. Examples:This exercise is aimed at reducing impulsivity and increasing students’ private speech.
“One of your classmates is having a bad hair day, do you think you should tell them, or keep it to yourself?”
“One of your classmates hurt your feelings, but they do not know that they did this, should you talk to them about it kindly or keep it to yourself?”
Encourage the students to partake in private speech. This is when they think about a situation privately and quietly to themselves. Ask them to think about outcomes that could possibly happen if they make certain choices. Encourage them to really think before speaking and acting.
Follow the Birdie
Two children partner up. One picks up an object such as an erasor and holds it eighteen inches in front of the other student’s eyes. The first student then begins to move the object from left to right and back again. The watching student must follow the object with his eyes only and count slowly. If he turns his head to follow the object he loses his turn and must move the object for the otehr student, who has to follow it himself. Alternatives to left and right can be in an arc, or a figure eight, or a circle. The object must move relatively slowly so that the watcher’s eyes are not strained. Whoever lasts the longest during the time period given wins the game.
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 meanin, make changes so that children must once again regulate their responses. they have developed the appropriate self regulation for this game.
This activities requires that students override an automatic response, and therefore exhibit self-regulation. Begin by having students point to their head, shoulders, knees and toes. Have students touch each body part in a variety of sequences to get accustomed to the game. Then have students 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.”
HTKS YouTube clip
The Freeze Game
This game requires music! The teacher will play the music and then when she stops the music the children must freeze and be still as statues in whatever position the froze in. Then the teacher will play a variety of different music. The children 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.
The Color Matching Freeze Game
There will be 4 pieces of construction for each student taped to the ground in a square. The teacher will play music and the students will dance—quickly or slowly according to the music. When the music stops playing, the teacher will hold up a piece of colored construction paper and the students have to sit on the same color on the ground.
2 students stand and face each other in a specific pose (any pose that they choose). When the teacher says “GO” neither student may move, talk, or change facial expression. The first student to do so loses. The teacher can also come up with the poses if she wants so that they have someone to mimic.
Students will all line up on a starting line. Instructor says “Ready, Set….” and she might say “go” OR another word that sounds like go OR starts with a “g”. EXAMPLE: green! gorilla! snow! crow! blow! grape! gate! The students that make a false start will have to take a penalty step backwards from the starting line. When instructor does say “go” all will run to the finish line
Freeze Pattern Game
Have students get into a certain pattern (ex: circle, square, heart) and have them standing next to a certain person. Then, signal for students change to a different pattern and stand next to a different person. Use different signals for each pattern.
Kids partner up and take turns making different faces and their partners must imitate them. For an added challenge, students can imitate one another’s’ body movements.
Red Light, Green Light. One child is the stoplight, the other children are the cars. When the stoplight yells “Green light!” the children run towards the stoplight. When the stoplight yells “Red light!” all the children must stop. If a 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.
Simon Says. When Simon says, “Simon says jump!” the children must jump. But if Simon only says, “Jump!” and somebody jumps, that person must sit out for the rest of the game. The last person standing becomes the new Simon. Another excellent game for developing self-regulation because children must listen carefully, pay attention, and follow directions.
Dance Dance Dance
The teacher puts on some fun music and then starts to dance. The students have to follow her routine exactly, no matter how wacky. After 30 seconds or so the teacher calls out a students name and that student begins to make up his own dance moves that the rest of the class must follow. The teacher then becomes the judge. Any student she catches not follow the moves exactly has to sit down. Each student should get thirty seconds or a minute to lead the dance before the teacher calls another student to lead.
Peanut Butter Jelly Game
Have the children sit on the floor in a large circle. Choose one ball to be the peanut butter and the other ball will be the jelly. The object of the game is to always throw the peanut butter ball and roll the jelly ball. On start, the child holding the peanut butter ball throws it to anyone in the circle, and the child holding the jelly ball rolls it to anyone in the circle. Whoever receives the peanut butter ball must continue to throw it to someone else, whereas the jelly ball must be rolled. If a player makes a mistake and rolls the peanut butter ball, throws the jelly ball, of if both balls are in front of one player at the same time, then that player is either out of the game or play starts over. Here for original page
Games and excercises adapted from the following resources:
Theatre Games for Young Performers by Maria C. Novelly
Self-Regulation: The Key to Successful Students? Todd Hoffman
101 pep-up games for children by Allison Bartl
When it is time to line up, use this song to help your class remember what to do. Teach them at the beginning of the year, and then just say “Kindergarten, please line up”, and they will begin to sing the song on their own.
Kindergarten Please Line Up (to the tune of Mary Had a Little Lamb)
Kindergarten, please line up,
please line up,
please line up.
Kindergarten please line up
Get ready for the hall.
I will not shove
I will not push.
Will not talk,
Will not pass.
Will not lag behind the rest,
I’ll line up with my class.
One hand on my hip and lip
hip and lip,
hip and lip,
One hand on my hip and lip
I’m ready for a trip.
Busy Bee Transitions
by Alexandra Ziemann
I made a wand and wrapped yellow curling ribbon up the wand. At the top I have yellow ribbon curls coming down, coiled up black pipe cleaners and jingle bells. During transition times I always take out “Busy Bee” and sing our busy bee song. The students know to get on task because if they are they will be touched on the head by busy bees’ magic (the curly ribbon hanging down). They love that they can participate and have fun all the while staying on task. It’s also very easy to remember to take out the wand because during transitions they are always looking for “busy bee.”
Oh what fun it is to see
A teeny tiny busy bee
Staying on task
Moving right along
And having fun singing this song!
Walking in the Hallways
by Becky Pate
Kindergarten classes make several transitions from place to place each day. To help my students walk quietly and stay focused forward, we sign the alphabet continually until we reach our destination. We use the American Sign Language form.
We also like to play, Monkey See, Monkey Do while walking in the hallways. We whisper this rhyme: Monkey see, monkey do, can you do what I do?I then do some motions with my hands, arms, and or face for the students to copy. The students stay focused and have fun being silly, but quiet as we walk. Note* this also works in other situations such as times we have to wait in line, or anywhere you have a minute or two to fill.