Activities to Teach Children Impulse Control

by Rebecca Bagwell, Demand Media
    Teaching children impulse control is an important process.

    Teaching children impulse control is an important process.

    As charming as toddlers and preschoolers can be, with all their energy and delight about the world around them they often present some hard challenges. Along with potty-training and going through the ever-fun “Why?” stage, children ages 2 to 5 also go through a process of learning impulse control. Teaching impulse control is not fun for anyone, even some adults, but it will turn into an essential skill in raising a well-mannered child.

    Silently I Spy

    Teaching children to control when they speak is a skill to practice when playing I Spy. Ensure that your children know not to blurt out the answer but to hold their hand up when they think they have figured it out. Instead of spying just colors in your game, give various clues to make the object obvious such as “I spy a round, hard, orange object that people bounce and throw into baskets.” It takes effort on children’s part not to call out an obvious answer so by rewarding those who can keep it in, they will focus on keeping their words under control.

    Freeze Tag

    In order to help young children to think before moving, play a different version of Freeze Tag. Play music and allow your little ones to dance and play as they wish. Silently, hold up a picture of a certain pose you wish them to take when the music ends. You can have them touch their head or take a bow. They might nod when they see it, but they should not strike the pose until you turn off the music. They must keep the image in their mind while they play and wait until it is the correct time to make the motion. When the music stops, tag anyone who does not immediately take the position. Reinforce the idea that they can control their arms and legs at any time to do what is right.

    Follow the Leader

    Help your young children learn to control their hands by playing Follow the Leader with a beat. Hand out chopsticks or unsharpened pencils to your children. Start beating a rhythm on the table and see whether they can join in. Most toddlers and preschoolers love making noise so they should eagerly start drumming. Begin to slow down your rhythm so they must slow down their own motions. Many young children might have difficulty not beating out their own rhythm, but encourage them to keep trying. Alternatively, march in place to a beat and watch them try to control their actions.

    Pretend Friends

    Many young children respond well to using their own toys to role-play scenarios where they have difficulty responding appropriately. Use their stuffed animals and pretend that one of them was accidentally knocked down while playing. Ask your child what his pretend friend should say to make the situation better. Practice using friendly language that your child needs to use with his own friends. If your child sees positive scenarios where he learns how to use words to communicate his feelings, he will slowly become better at impulse control.

    About the Author

    Rebecca Bagwell is an educator with a bachelor's degree in secondary education from Trinity Baptist College. She has taught in China and the United States. While overseas she started writing articles in 2006 for bilingual trade journals. Now, she lives in the South where she homeschools and writes freelance articles encouraging creative approaches to education.

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