Games to Teach Self-Control to Children
To teach self-control to children via games, you can address various aspects, including patience, delayed gratification, concentration, self-discipline and planning skills 3. 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.
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 3. 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.
Traditional board games, such as:
- checkers or chess
- require that a child concentrate
- 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 2.
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. 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.
- Lesson One: The ABCs of Life: The Skills We All Need but Were Never Taught; Jon Oliver and Michael Ryan
- Welcome to Your Child's Brain: How the Mind Grows from Birth to University; Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang
- Teach Preschool: Helping Young Children Develop Self-Control
- Kids of Integrity: Giggle Game
- National Public Radio: Creative Play Makes for Kids in Control
- The Oregonian: When Preschoolers Act Out: Tips for Teaching Good Behavior, Self-Control
- The New York Times: Building Self-Control, the American Way
- A Place of Our Own: Activities that Encourage Patience
- Scholastic Parents: Why Impulse Control Is Harder Than Ever
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