Fun Activities to Teach Kids About Self-Control

Learning to regulate emotions can be challenging for many students, but it is a critical component of development and one that can be taught in fun and interesting ways. Below are a few techniques to help your students develop these critical skills.

USE BOOKS AS EXAMPLES

I love starting a lesson with a story and Clark the Shark by Bruce Hale is a fantastic conversation starter to help kids learn about controlling their emotions. Clark is a lovable character who, like many of our students, desperately wants to follow directions, but struggles with impulse control. This book allows us to create a safe space to discuss the different tactics Clark and our students use to resist their impulses.

BUBBLE ACTIVITY

Help students practice self-control by using bubbles. In the first round, blow bubbles or use a bubble machine and allow students to pop as many bubbles as they would like. In the second round, ask them to use their self-control and not pop any bubbles–even if they land on them, the students are not allowed to move. Students love this activity and this provides a true test for their self-control with low stakes. Be sure you praise the effort they’re making to resist the temptation to touch the bubbles.

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SIMON SAYS

Playing a simple game of Simon Says is a great way to allow students to practice listening and self-control. Our kids with impulse control issues are likely the ones that would be “out” first if you were to make the game exclusionary, so keep the game going for all of your students and don’t exclude anyone.

BODY SPACE BUBBLE

Many of our younger students struggle with keeping their hands to themselves, but this visual display of appropriate body space allows them to have a tangible spatial representation of what is appropriate body spacing. Discuss staying inside of our own space bubbles (identified by the area inside of the hula hoop) and allow them to practice lining up or walking around the room without bumping into each other. This is a great way to show the boundaries of our personal space in a fun and concrete manner.

BREATHING MINDFULLY

Teach your students about focusing their attention through deep breathing using the Mind Yeti tools. If you’ve never practiced breathing with your students before, let them watch the Mind Yeti introductory video and then practice a 2-3 minute breathing exercise using the app. If you’re short on time, you can ask them to pretend they are about to eat a yummy bowl of soup and they need to smell it deeply and then blow on it to cool it down a few times. My students reported feeling calmer and better able to focus.

BOARD GAME TO TEACH SOCIAL SKILLS

The game “What Should You Do?” by Lakeshore has to be one of my favorite games to play with kids who struggle to understand social rules and impulsivity. You can adapt this game to play with large groups by allowing students to work in teams to move the pieces across the board. The kids adore this game and I love how much they’re learning!

Many of these activities will translate well from large group to small group activities and students don’t even realize they are learning. Weeks after doing the hula hoop activity, I overheard a student share with her peer that she needed more space because the other student had crossed into her “space bubble.” I hope your students enjoy these activities as much as my students have!