Being a kid isn’t always easy, especially when growing and developing from toddlerhood to school age. It can be hard for a child to learn and adapt to new situations, and to behave themselves accordingly. Success of children in an educational setting varies based upon a number of factors, with literacy being a key part of a child’s academic progress. In other words, the more confidence a child has in performing reading tasks, the more successful they will be. Improving your child’s reading skills will help them to achieve broader academic success. There are four specific learning outcomes that foster literacy skill development:

  1. Self-regulation

  2. Active listening

  3. Pre-literacy skills

  4. Love of learning

Out of this list I wanted to add some insight on self-regulation. Self-regulation skills help a child control a behavior, thought or feeling in order to be calm and alert enough to take in new information and participate in interactions (Nurture and Thrive blog).

In my experience working with young children, I have found it extremely important to help them foster skills to improve their own self-regulation. It is normal for a baby or toddler to grab a toy impulsively, however, it is important that as the child gets to the age of 5 or older he or she is aware of how to control those urges. We want children to learn that controlling themselves is part of a higher goal.


I have noticed the importance of self-regulation specifically in the context of sharing. Children tend to have a difficult time sharing toys in the classroom, on a play date or in a new setting. One child tends to grab a toy out of another child’s hand impulsively, which causes a change in emotion and distractions. I provide positive reinforcement in the form of verbal praise, telling them they are doing a great job being patient and reminding them that in “5 minutes”, or however long the time frame, it will be their turn to get their desired toy, food etc. Time plays a huge part in learning how to gain control; giving a child the time they need to recognize their own impulses subsequently helps them learn how to regulate themselves in situations when they would normally be impulsive.


Timers are your friend! A great way to work on self-regulation with your child is to provide time-constraints. Setting a timer during a desired task helps children to prepare for completion of an activity along with the transition from one activity to the next. Time constraints give your child more information and therefore provides them a sense of relief when trying to regulate themselves. In addition, putting familiar alarm songs on timers is a great motivator! Some of the kids I work with look forward to hearing Elsa sing, “Let it Go” at the end of the timer to signify completion of the activity they are concluding.


Another helpful strategy to informally target self-regulation is through diverting attention. For instance, during a birthday celebration at a preschool where I worked, I noticed children attempting to grab the birthday cupcakes before their fellow classmates were seated at the table. I reminded the children that we must wait for everyone, and began singing a familiar song. As each child joined in singing they stopped reaching for cupcakes, giving ample time for all of the children to get situated and eventually eat their treats. When it came time for everyone to grab their cupcakes, the children who had been singing with me took their cupcakes with ease and smiles on their faces.


Overall, the more we practice, the better our kids do. The more we help our children learn how to control themselves in social settings, the more confidence they will gain which will pave the way to help them excel in the academic setting and beyond! There are many resources out there to gain additional insights on self-regulation as a whole as well as additional strategies and activities to utilize in order to help your child improve in their self-regulation skills.

Check out Nurture and Thrive Blog/self-regulation for more information.