Learning Anywhere, Every Day
Part 11 of 12 - Self-Control
23 August 2017
I clearly remember those first of weeks of school as a kindergarten teacher. I spent a lot of time reminding children to wait when necessary, to listen to directions before starting a project, to stick with a project when it got a bit difficult. These are some of the basic challenges your child will face In kindergarten. Kindergarten children need to know when and how to control their impatience to do things right away, to get immediate attention. Being able to be patient is a skill which is linked directly to self-control. It was obvious to me that some children had developed better self-control than others. They were ready to handle these basic challenges better than others.
Self-control is a skill which is so very important in kindergarten and in all school years that follow. Kindergarten teachers also call it centering, the ability to concentrate rather than be all over the place. As with any skill, it takes practice and time to develop proficiency. Just as your child gradually developed language skills, your child can develop the skill of self-control. Even if your child isn’t going to kindergarten in the near future, it is never too soon to start developing these important skills. Here are 9 simple and pleasant ways to help your preschooler develop self-control:
- Set clear examples of why waiting is necessary. Complete your task at hand before responding to your child’s request for attention. Finish what you are doing, then respond to your preschooler’s requests. For example, if you are on the phone and your child asks for something-- and it’s not an emergency-- let him know you need to take time to complete your conversation. This is a good way to let your child practice waiting for a short time. Teachers will respond in the very same way in the classroom with children’s interruptions.
- Provide constructive ways to practice patience. Help your preschooler understand how long he will have to wait for something and give them something constructive to do. Suggest engaging activities to do while they wait. For example, say, “Gramma and Grampa are coming over before dinner. Would you like to play with your Zip-a-dee Painting or draw some pictures to give them?” or “As soon as I put your sister to bed, I will read you some stories. You can choose three books for us to read together.”
- Choose books that reflect your child’s interests. Children focus best when they care about a topic. What does your child talk about? What themes come up as she plays? Check out our Skilly-do Book Reviews for great reading recommendations for your preschooler.
- Have fun following and listening to directions. Show that you can have a good time when you execute a plan. For example, if your child is 4 or older, build a model together. With younger children, play follow the leader, or cook or bake together. Say, “I’m going to read the recipe out loud. Listen carefully so we will both know what to do. I’ll read them again as we do each step.” Or when you get something, that needs assembling, like a toy or piece of furniture, read the instructions out loud. You can use our Skilly-do Eat It! activities like Spider Crackers and Celery Boats to get creative, make something yummy and follow directions together.
- Play listening games. Play games like Simon Says, I Spy, and I’m thinking of something that starts with the letter … These games help your preschooler practice focusing, paying attention, and remembering rules, all while having a good time. Check out our activity, Everything Music for more listening practice and Learning Anywhere, Every Day - Waiting Games for more ideas on how to enjoy the times when you just have to wait.
- Challenge your child to try harder things and stick with it. Your child will be faced with doing a lot of new things in Kindergarten. Trying different or challenging things at home is the first step in getting comfortable with a world of new things. Here’s an easy idea: Work with your child to complete a puzzle that has a few more pieces than she’s used to. Set up the puzzle in a place where you can work on it for several days, if needed. Celebrate together when one of you puts in the last piece in place. Learning to stick with things even if they’re not easy at first will be a key asset in kindergarten and in all their school years to follow.
- Plant seeds. Taking time to plant seeds and to watch their natural growth helps your preschooler learn that some things take time to enjoy. This will also be the case in kindergarten, as children work on group projects that often involve long periods of time. So, plant some easy-to-grow marigold or sunflower seeds in a pot or in a garden. Check every day together until the plants pop up. As time passes, watch the plant grow leaves and flowers. You can explore more ideas about the natural world and passing time with our Outdoor Skilly-do activities, like Butterfly-ing and What Happens To Water. And check out our blog, Learning Anywhere, Every Day - Walkabouts for easy ideas about how observe and enjoy nature together.
- Play sorting games while cleaning up. Cleanup time in kindergarten is a necessary part of the daily program. Start now! Get your preschooler in the habit of helping with cleanup on a regular basis, rather than leaving everything out until prompted to clean up the entire mess. As is often the way it’s done in Kindergarten classes, suggest picking up toys of a particular type, color, or shape. “Let’s pick up the red crayons first, then the green crayons.” Even cleanup time can be fun and help children focus and think flexibly. Our blogs, Learning Anywhere, Every Day - Math Adventures and Helping At Home have even more ideas to help your little one practice their focusing and sorting skills.
- Play an opposite game. In Kindergarten when a routine is set, sometimes children will think they heard what they expect the to teacher say. So, they act without truly listening and end up doing something different than what’s been asked. To help your child pay closer attention, listen, and think flexibly, try playing a game where you do the opposite of what you say. For example, say “Simon says, touch your feet,” while you touch your head. Or say you will dance quickly to slow music, then put on fast music and dance slowly. My blog Learning Anywhere, Every Day - Musical Play shares simple ways to make the most of listening to all kinds of music with your preschooler.
So yes, absolutely! You can enjoy growing your preschooler’s self-control. You both will benefit from it … and eventually, your child’s kindergarten teacher will too. Trust me! You can find even more valuable information on your child’s kindergarten readiness in my blog Get Ready for Big School, Part 1 - 8 Parenting Tips and Part 2, Preschool Skills Checklist. As always, I’d love to hear how your child's growing goes.
Up next in Part 12 of our 12 part Learning Anywhere, Every Day series, it’s time to sit down together for a meal. And here's where our Learning Anywhere, Every Day series began.
Inspiration/Photo credit goes to Bex Walton's image of rainbow macaroon cookies from Comptoir Gourmand patisserie in London.