Back Away from the Cookies: Strategies for Self Regulation

Photo by Bill Branson

Yes, it’s true, many kids need to work on their self regulation. But sometimes grown-ups do, too. Here are a few fun finds to help you and your kids keep working together on saying “no” and stepping away from whatever it is you have trouble turning down. Before summer starts, clear out some time to develop these skills in fun and rewarding ways.

It’s Hard To Delay Gratification. Just Ask Cookie Monster  NPR’s Life Kit, with Anya Kamenetz and Cory Turner, sits down with one of Sesame Street’s most famous icons to practice how it’s done. Here are their steps to success (though it’s definitely more fun to watch the video than read them here):

  • Take a deep belly breath.
  • Look in a different direction.
  • Focus on the reason you are waiting — for example, a promise to share the cookie with a friend.
  • Distract yourself — for example, with singing.
  • Talk about something else — say, a book you are reading.

30 Games & Activities To Teach Self Regulation More games than you can shake a stick at, here. Pediatric occupational therapist and blogger Claire Heffron explains not only what self regulation is, but offers up enough game ideas that you’re sure to find at least a few that interest you and your family. Remember the board game Operation? Jenga? Even Duck Duck Goose? Yeah, they’re in there. So get out and play!

10 Fun Activities That Teach Executive Functioning to Kids and Teens Executive functioning is another name for the set of skills that makes  self regulation possible. These skills include focusing on on a specific task (even when it’s boring), tuning out irrelevant stimuli, temporarily remembering information needed for decision making and reasoning, curbing impulses and adapting when circumstances change. It’s pretty obvious why these skills are necessary, but maybe not so obvious how to build them.

Once again, the answer is games! Author and blogger Sarah Rudell divides them up by age group, starting with toddlers all the way through teens. “Family game night can now be family brain night!” she says.