Self-regulation is a critical skill for preschoolers and affects children socially, behaviorally, and academically. Skills such as recognizing and monitoring emotions, controlling and resisting impulses, and exerting self-control are essential for social-emotional competence and academic success.1 This year, when so much feels out of their control, children’s ability to regulate their feelings and actions can also be a source of confidence and pride.


The resources in this bundle will…

  • Help you learn about self-regulation,
  • offer strategies to help your child regulate their actions and thoughts, and
  • provide playful activities the whole family can do to build self-regulation skills.



  1. Sesame Workshop Self-Regulation Seminar Summary
  1. 1

    We Have Self Control

    Self-regulation requires kids to learn a variety of skills, such as recognizing and managing their feelings, regulating their responses to upsetting or exciting situations, and focusing and shifting their attention. These sound like— and are! —complex skills. Fortunately, there are simple, playful ways that you can help your child grow in each of these areas. Try these self-regulation-boosting strategies:



    Self-talk is when children talk to themselves in a quiet voice out loud or inside their head. It helps children control their impulses by guiding and managing their own behavior.


    Self-talk can also help children:

    • Hold rules and goals in their minds
    • Think of alternatives
    • Focus attention
    • Remember what to do
    • Persist at a task
    • Control themselves and their bodies


    As your child goes through his everyday routines, suggest phrases he might say to keep himself on track. For instance, when washing his hands, he might say, “First comes the water, then the soap, then scrub, scrub, scrub. I can wash my hands!” When trying something new, he might say “I will give it a try.” When waiting, he can say, “I can be patient!”


    Creative Waiting

    Kids don’t understand time the same way grown-ups do, which can make waiting even more difficult. But learning to control their impulses and behaviors is an important part of self-regulation. Help children practice patience, creatively! Help them pass the time or delay gratification by:

    • Counting
    • Singing
    • Playing “I Spy”
    • Repeating a mantra such as, “I can wait.”
    • Putting a picture frame around a desired object
    • Pretend a desired object is something else
    • Playing with something else


    Attention Games

    You can help your child sharpen her cognitive skills by playing games. Yep! That’s right. Kids learn so much as they play, and specific games can really level-up their ability to focus, shift attention, follow directions and more. Try these activities:


    • Memory and matching
    • Freeze Dance
    • Simon Says
    • “I Spy” and scavenger hunts
    • Sorting
    • Spot the difference
  2. 2

    Whole Body Listening


    One part of self-regulation involves being aware of and in-control of our bodies. In this video, Elmo and his classmates are having trouble concentrating because they have the wiggles! We see his teacher help them calm down and remind them how to listen with their whole bodies.

    • Before watching: Explain to children that Elmo is feeling fidgety and having trouble concentrating. Ask if they ever feel that way.
    • While you watch: As you watch, notice how Elmo’s teacher remains flexible when her students have the wiggles—she sees a problem, tries a solution, and gets back to the task at hand.
    • After watching: Talk through the four steps of whole-body listening: calm body, quiet voice, eyes watching, ears listening. Then practice together! Finally, ask your child, “Can you think of times when it would be important to listen with our whole bodies?”
  3. 3

    Using My Senses

    Download printable

    We can use our senses to help calm our bodies and focus our minds. This printable guides children through a mindfulness exercise in which they use their senses to focus on the present moment. Do this activity together with children and remind them that this is a strategy they can use anytime they need to calm down.