Games to Teach Self-Control to Children

By Kay Tang
IPGGutenbergUKLtd/iStock/Getty Images

To teach self-control to children via games, you can address various aspects, including patience, delayed gratification, concentration, self-discipline and planning skills. For young children, games can help them to control their impulses and body movements. Older children can develop concentration and the abilities to strategize and problem solve by playing board games as well as through physical games in groups.

Controlling Impulses

When overwhelmed by emotion, young children tend to react with little restraint. Games can help children learn to control their impulses and think before acting out. For example, a modified game of "Freeze" enables children to self regulate, according to Tools of the Mind. Begin by having children dance to music. Then hold a picture of a stick figure in a particular stance above your head. When the music stops, the children have to mimic the stick figure’s position. Not only do the children have to wait until the music stops to assume the correct position, but they also have to pay attention to the change in stick figures or to your signals.

Learning Rules and Patience

Simple games, such as “Simon Says” and “Red Light, Green Light,” involve following rules. By heeding rules, children develop a sense of the elements of self-control -- the difference between right and wrong, fairness and delayed gratification. In “Red Light, Green Light,” one child plays the traffic signal while the other children line up about 15 feet away. Turning away from the others, the traffic signal calls “green light.” The children can move toward him until he turns around and calls “red light.” If the traffic signal catches any of the kids moving, they’re out. The first child to touch the traffic signal wins or the signal-child wins if he calls everyone else out.

Honing Concentration

Traditional board games, such as Monopoly, Clue, Risk, checkers or chess, require that a child concentrate and develop strategy skills. Even board games for young children ages 5 and up, such as Chutes and Ladders, Sorry! or Battleship, encourage self-control because the children have to resist the impulse to move their pieces during an opponent’s turn, according to “Welcome to Your Child's Brain: How the Mind Grows from Birth to University” by Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang.

Participating in Invasion Games

Physical games, in which children form teams and one team must invade the other team’s territory to score points within a given time limit, help children to learn self-control. Invasion games include sports where your child has to carry or catch a ball across a line, strike a ball into a target area or shoot a ball into a target. Examples are hockey, basketball, netball, rugby, soccer and ultimate Frisbee, according to Cracker Jack Kids. In these games, children have to learn patience, correct mistakes, and respond appropriately to events during game play. They also develop self-discipline by regularly practicing their skills even when not inclined to do so.

About the Author

Kay Tang is a journalist who has been writing since 1990. She previously covered developments in theater for the "Dramatists Guild Quarterly." Tang graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in economics and political science from Yale University and completed a Master of Professional Studies in interactive telecommunications at New York University.