As I prepare for my son to enter JK in September, a topic that keeps coming up is ‘self-regulation’ and how a child’s ability to self-regulate affects their academic success.
So, what is self-regulation? It’s the ability to do things mindfully and intentionally, to control one’s impulses, and to stop doing something if needed.
Self-regulation affects a child’s ability to govern themselves, follow instructions, refrain from causing classroom disruptions and direct their attention to the teacher and to the skills being taught. It has been found that a child’s ability to self-regulate at the beginning of kindergarten has a direct correlation with their proficiency in math and literacy at the end of the year.
There is an easy test to gauge a child’s ability to self-regulate. It only takes a couple of minutes and kids usually find it fun. It’s called the Head-Toes, Shoulder-Knees test. The game is designed to have the child purposefully perform an action that is contrary to the instruction. When they are told to touch their head they should touch their toes. When they are told to touch their toes they should touch their head. The same goes for shoulders and knees. It has been shown that a child’s aptitude with this game is an excellent predictor of their performance in reading, writing, and especially mathematics.
Fortunately, self-regulation is a learned skill that begins at the toddler stage and continues to improve as the brain develops into adulthood. Parents and caregivers can help young children improve their ability to self-regulate, in preparation for school, by playing age-appropriate games with simple rules. Red Light Green Light and Simon Says are great games to help children learn to start and stop their actions mindfully. Frequent rule changes can further improve a child’s ability to self-regulate. For example, change the rules of Red Light Green Light so the kids run forward on the red command and stop on the green. Add a slow-moving yellow light to the mix.
There is a lot involved in preparing a child for the start of school, and a smooth transition into kindergarten can set the stage for future academic success. If a child can successfully govern their own behaviour, they are well on their way to a rewarding school career. – Jen R. Staff Writer.