8 Games that Encourage Self-Regulation

Self-regulation is the ability to manage one’s own emotions, behavior, and body movements while still focusing and attending to a task at hand. Self-regulation involves being able to self-calm when anxious or upset, resist highly emotional reactions (crying, hitting, screaming, etc.) to stimuli, and adjust to changes in expectations/routines. Children who have difficulty with self-regulation may have difficulty identifying their feelings/emotions, have strong emotional outbursts, seem impulsive, and have difficulty attending and focusing. Self-regulation includes being able to identify feelings/emotions, identify what is causing that specific feeling, and how to appropriately manage those feelings while still being able to participate in and attend to activities. Research suggests that children make the most gains in their ability to self-regulate between the ages of 3 and 7. Children learn self-regulation through trial and error. The development of self-regulation skills in preschool and school age children is important for fostering success when learning and playing with peers!

Below are 8 common games that encourage the use of self-regulation skills:

1. Duck, Duck Goose

Challenges children to sit still until they are tagged as the “goose”, works on turn taking.

2. Simon Says

Challenges children to pay close attention to directions and follow movements, as well as learn how to cope when getting “out” if they don’t follow the directions.

3. Red light, Green light

Challenges children to listen to directions and control their body movements by “stopping and going.”

4. Freeze Tag

Challenges children to remain as still as possible until they are tagged again and able to move.

5. Whack-a-Mole, Stack-a-Mole

Works on visual memory and hand eye coordination while trying to stack the cups in order as fast as possible. It also teaches children to look and process information before acting.

6. Hide-and-Seek

Challenges children to not move and be as quiet as possible until the seeker finds them!

7. Jenga

Encourages slow, careful, and controlled movements when stacking the blocks.

8. Spot it!/ Spot it! Jr.

This game involves spotting the same picture on two different cards. The first one to spot the same image wins one of the two cards. This game encourages children to suppress impulses from the brain to shout out random images.

-Marla Griswold, OTR/L