Posted in Behavior, Indoor Play, Outdoor Play, Parent-Child Bonding, School

6 Self-Regulation Activities and Games for Kids

Self Regulation Activities

Games that Practice Listening & Following Direction Skills

Here are details on some fun Kids Games and Activities! These games were designed to help children practice paying attention, following directions, remembering rules, and demonstrating self-control.


1. Red Light, Purple Light. Like Red Light, Green Light, a teacher acted as a “stop light” by standing at the opposite end of the room from the children. The “stop light” held updifferent colors to represent stop and go. We used different colors, such as purple for “go” and orange for “stop” and then did the opposite. We also used different shapes to represent stop and go. For example a yellow square for “go,” but a yellow triangle was “stop.” Children also had a turn being the stop light!


2. The Freeze Game. Children and teachers danced to music. When the teacher stopped the music, everyone froze. We used slow and fast songs and had children dance slowly to slow songs and quickly to fast songs. Once children mastered these skills, children tried moving to opposite cues: children tried to remember to dance quickly to the slow songs and slowly to the fast songs!


3. Cooperative Freeze. Related to the Freeze Game, when the music stopped, children found a mat to stand on and froze. Teachers removed mats so that children had to cooperate with one another to find a space for everyone on fewer mats. We also taped different colored paper to each mat. When the music stopped, a teacher held up a specific color and children stood on the mat with the matching color.


4. Sleeping, Sleeping, All the Children are Sleeping. Children pretended to sleep when the circle leader sang, “Sleeping, sleeping, all the children are sleeping.” Once children were pretending to sleep, the circle leader said, “And when they woke up… they were [monkeys]!”Children woke up and pretended to act like monkeys. The circle leader then repeated the song and suggested other animals. Children who were pretending to sleep were called on to give suggestions for other animals. We made this more complicated by showing 3 different colored circles (ex: red, blue, purple). On the red circle was a picture of a snake, on the blue circle was a picture of a butterfly and there was no animal on the purple circle. When it was time to wake up, the circle leader pointed to one of the circles and the children acted out the animal on that circle. Pointing to the purple circle (the circle with no picture) allowed the leader to choose any animal. After a few rounds, we removed the pictures and children had to remember what animal was on each circle.

Music conductor - Man directing with his baton in concert Rosewood baton S14RW_500cartoon-musical-instrument-icon-18472340

5. Conducting an Orchestra. Every child used a musical instrument. The circle leader used a drum stick as a conducting baton. When the conductor waved the baton, children played their instruments. When the conductor put the baton down, children stopped. Children played their instruments quickly when the baton moved quickly and slowly when the baton moved slowly. Children were also asked to respond to opposite cues. For example, when the conductor waved the baton, children stopped playing their instruments and when the conductor set the baton down, children played their instruments.


6. Drum Beats. Teachers used drum beats to represent different actions that children can do while sitting (e.g., clapping or stomping) or while moving around the room (e.g., walking or dancing). For example, children walked quickly to fast drumming, slowly to slow drumming, and froze when the drumming stopped. Teachers also asked children to respond to opposite cues (walk slowly to fast drum beats and quickly to slow drum beats). Teachers also associated different actions with specific drum cues. For example, slow drumming meant stomping feet and fast drumming meant jumping jacks.

Free Printable PDF on Self Regulation and why it is important:

Self Regulation as a Prediction of Academic Success

Self Regulation is the ability of a person to tolerate sensations, situations and distress and form appropriate responses to that sensory input. Simply stated it is the ability to control behavior. In Children self regulation matures just like other developmental processes. Children get older and learn to think before they act. Research continues to develop in this area of self regulation and how much it effects other aspects of development.

regulation in the beginning of the school year achieved higher scores in reading, vocabulary and math at the end of the
school year. The researchers concluded that improving self regulation in children can improve academic achievement and behavioral responses.

Now, for any therapist, teacher or parent who has knowledge of sensory integration knows how much deficits in self regulation effect behaviours, social skills and motor responses. We need to continue to educate school staff on the importance of this skill be developed in all children. Per-kindergarten and kindergarten curriculum has changed it’s focus to reading, writing and math skills at an earlier age. There is not enough practice time to learn self regulation during these early formative years. Now it appears as if this hard core academic curriculum in the early years needs to slow down. This study provides significant evidence to support teaching self regulation skills.

Original Source – References:

  • Tominey, S. & McClelland, M. (2009). Red light, purple light: Initial findings from an intervention to improve self-regulation over
    the pre-kindergarten year. Manuscript in preparation.
  • Tominey, S. & McClelland, M. (April, 2008). “And when they woke up, they were monkeys!” Using classroom games to
    promote preschooler’s self-regulation and school readiness. Poster presented at the Conference on Human Development in
    Indianapolis, Indiana.

Related Links on My Blog:

  • Click Here for a List of 40 Ways to Keep Children Occupied (especially toddlers) with activities that promote learning and attachment. (sewing basket for kids, pool noodles, pipe cleaners, sensory bins, water tables, etc)
  • Click Here for Activities that Promote Learning & Attachment – link to website with activities listed by age (up to age 5 years but you can adapt for older kids)
  • Click Here for 4 Fun Games that Promote Self-Regulation and practice listening & following directions skills
  • Click Here for Relaxing Road Trip Activities for Kids (most can be fun to play inside at home too! like play dough mats, coloring sheets etc)
  • Click Here for 5 Attachment-Based Activities, 15 Attachment Promoting Activities and MANY more Attachment & Connection Promoting Play.
  • Click Here to see 100 ways to show LOVE to your child (includes free printable list)
  • Click Here for 20 Activities and Games to press the “reset” button when kids are getting silly or tough! (whisper game, kitchen stations, color their name, move slowly, read a book, take a bath etc.)
  • Click Here for 4 Family Fun Activities using Balloons!
  • Click Here for 8 Communication Games Help kids practice listening & following direction skills (Red Light Green Light, Mad Libs, Simon Says, Follow the Leader, Obstacle Course etc.)
  • Click Here for 24 Gross Motor Activities that promote Parent-Child Connection
  • Click Here for 31 SideWalk Chalk Activities for Kids
  • Click Here for Parenting Tips on how to Improve & Grow Your Attachment & Connection with Your Child


Mother, Pediatric Nurse and a Trail Blazer for Positive Change.

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