Helping Children Learn to Self Regulate

Helping Children Learn to Self Regulate

The first two years of life is an amazing time of growth and change, both physically and cognitively. Babies experiment with and learn from the environment around them. Beyond physical, thinking, and language tasks, babies are learning about social and emotional tasks. Starting in the earliest months of life, babies have the capacity to experience peaks of joy and excitement and also feel fear, sadness and anger. Research has also shown that children’s ability to effectively manage their full range of emotions—also known as self-regulation—is one of the most important factors for success in school, work and relationships into the long-term.

By teaching skills around social emotional learning we are able to empower our youngest children to better deal with their own emotions. Social emotional learning is key to every child’s ability to manage feelings and to interact successfully with others. There is growing evidence that self-regulation can be taught in the classroom (Blair & Razza 2007; Diamond et al. 2007). Let’s look at some strategies from NAEYC for doing so.

  • Teach self-regulation to all children, not just those thought to have problems. All young children benefit from practicing deliberate and purposeful behaviors, such as repeated switching from one set of rules to another or resisting the temptation to function on autopilot.
  • Create opportunities for children to practice the rules of a certain behavior and to apply those rules in new situations. When children are constantly regulated by adults, they may appear to be self-regulated, when in fact they are “teacher regulated.” To be able to internalize the rules of a certain behavior, children can practice them in three ways: follow the rules, set and monitor  the rules and finally apply the rules to their own behavior.
  • Offer children visual and tangible reminders about self-regulation. Learning to regulate one’s own behavior is in many ways similar to learning other competencies, such as literacy or numeracy.
  • Make play and games important parts of the curriculum. Not only should play and games not be pushed out of the classroom to make room for more “academic” learning, they need to be taken very seriously. Children learn self-regulation best through activities in which children—and not adults—set, negotiate, and follow the rules. These include make-believe play as well as games with rules.

Through thoughtfully prepared curriculum around social emotional learning, Wonders gives children the opportunity to enhance their self regulation skills. We recognize that each child is different and develops differently from their peers. That is why we believe in developmentally appropriate guidance for children.

It’s easy to asses when children grow physically but how can we tell if a child is learning to self regulate?  A study from Vanderbilt University identified these six cognitive skills as those that are improved upon with growing self regulation.

  • Attention focusing—the capacity to attend to and sustain focus on a learning task.
  • Inhibitory control—the ability to suppress inappropriate off-task responses to distracting stimuli in a classroom environment.
  • Patience—the ability to wait when required by a learning task and not respond impulsively or prematurely.
  • Attention shifting—the ability to shift focus appropriately within a given learning task and from one task to another as situations demand.
  • Organizing skills—the ability to follow directions, engage in planning, and organize sequences of behavior.
  • Working memory—the ability to temporarily store and manage the information required to carry out a task.

All these learned skills lead to the emotional health and success of a child. Children with strong self-regulation skills, empathy, and social skills are more likely to be successful in school. They are more likely to feel connected to both adults and other children. They are better able to struggle, can deal with mistakes and moments of sadness, and are better able to stand up for themselves and others. These children are more likely to develop resilience, self-control, and self-efficacy – all important life-long skills.

Club Fun: How Wonders Does Sports

Club Fun: How Wonders Does Sports

Fewer than half of children ages 6 to 11 meet the U.S. Surgeon General’s recommendation for engaging in at least 60 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week. One way to address that deficit is through sport activity, especially team sports, as children often enjoy playing in groups. (source) While many children love soccer, football, and other team sports, some do not. Not every child is cut out for the growing world of competitive sports. But that’s not to say they don’t like the actual sport. Which is why Wonders offers Club Fun.

Club Fun is offered for each child enrolled in the Wonders extended day programs, in 3rd- 6th grade. Games are played with an emphasis on teamwork and great sportsmanship. Games typically last about an hour, and scores are not often kept.  Club Fun offers kids the chance to learn a new skill in an environment that promotes growth and challenge, more than competition. And most importantly everyone gets equal play time in the game. Our co-ed non-competitive league promotes learning the game, sportsmanship, fair play and mainly FUN with our other Wonders extended day programs.

In a 2014 study for George Washington University, researcher Amanda Visik interviewed numerous youth athletes and asked them why they played sports, and 9 out of 10 said the #1 reason they played was it was fun! The children in the George Washington study defined fun as trying their best, being treated respectfully by coaches, parents and teammates, and getting playing time.

Through Club Fun we’ve even inspired some those reluctant to try a sport to begin playing.

“The parents are very excited about the Club Fun Sports because for some of them it is the only team their child is on and they want to be able to see more games.” – Director of JPDS Extended Day

Although we don’t emphasize the importance of scores and winning or losing there is research to say there can be something to gain from losing. Experts agree that losing at sports, no matter how unending, can allow children to learn from failure. Losing all the time builds philosophy, camaraderie, sportsmanship and the idea of athletics as a series of incremental victories. The team may falter, but teammates improve, moment by moment. (source)

Even outside of Club Fun, the children show their exemplary skills acquired through Club Fun games. At one of our extended day programs during the active choice time, the children have been learning new skills in many different games and sports with their teachers. Lately, the younger children have been wanting to improve their football skills, so we run drills and practice throwing/catching when we are outside on the blacktop. It’s great to see the way our older children interact with and teach the younger ones. Their patience and willingness to teach makes the active choice time fun for everyone.

Handy Family Book

Handy Family Book

When we created the Handy Family Book ten years ago, our goal was to compile all of the useful and essential information that families might need while their children are enrolled at Wonders. We hope that you will take a few moments to review this year’s edition and that you will keep it handy throughout the year.

Most of the policies and procedures that you will find in the Handy Book are required by state licensing and accreditation standards. Several Wonders procedures have been developed over the years, with the input of families and staff, who provide us with valuable annual feedback and ongoing input. We appreciate this partnership and want to continue to strengthen the work that we do together. If you have questions about any aspect of the Handy Book, please contact me.

Wonders teachers and directors will keep you informed of classroom and program activities and other Wonders news all year long. We hope that in addition to reading this Handy Book, you will read the e-newsletters and keep up to date with the many happenings through our website, Facebook page, Instagram and Twitter feeds. While we love the various ways that we can use technology to connect with you, what we like best is saying hello each day.

All the best for a terrific year and I look forward to seeing you at the many Wonders family events throughout the year.




Joanne Hurt
Executive Director​


Photo by Tezzerah on Unsplash



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Montgomery County Coalition for Adult English Literacy (MCAEL)

Montgomery County Coalition for Adult English Literacy (MCAEL)

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