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5 Practical Strategies for Self-Regulation for Preschoolers

self-regulation preschoolers

Are you struggling to teach your preschoolers self-regulation skills?

Don't worry, you're not alone. Many teachers and parents find it challenging to help little ones navigate their emotions and control impulsive behavior. Whether you're creating behavior or social emotional IEP goals or just helping littles learn about emotions and social interactions, it can be tricky! But with the right strategies in place, you can support self-regulation development and set them up for success.

Here are five practical strategies to implement to help your preschoolers develop self-regulation. These quick-and-easy techniques are designed to build your students’ ability to manage their emotions, control their impulses, and make positive choices.

1. Breathing Exercises

Description: Teach preschoolers deep breathing techniques to promote self-regulation. Encourage them to take deep breaths in through the nose, hold for a moment, and exhale through the mouth. I like to use “Smell the flower, blow out the candle.” The visual helps!

Benefit: This simple exercise can calm heightened emotions and help students refocus.

Something like this…

2. Visual Cues and Charts

Description: Use charts with visuals of emotions (e.g., real pictures are great but also cartoon pictures). Let them point to or place a marker on how they feel.

Benefit: Provides a non-verbal way for children to express and recognize their feelings which builds self-regulation. This can work with even the youngest or non-speaking littles with a little training!

Something like this…

3. Safe Space Corner

Description: Create a cozy calm corner in the classroom where students can go when they feel overwhelmed. Equip it with soft pillows, calming toys, and books. Works best if you teach and practice when and how to access this area before you’re in the moment of need!

Benefit: It offers a designated place for children to self-soothe and decompress. If you get this up and running smoothly, you will THANK ME! 😊

self-regulation preschoolers calm corner

Check out some of these self-regulation resources!

4. Practice Waiting

self-regulation preschoolers waiting

Description: Play games that require turn-taking, like “Simon Says.” Or use a sand timer or other visual timer to show short waiting periods. Figure out how much they can wait independently to start (even if just a few seconds!) and then build slowly from there.

Benefit: Students learn patience and the concept of delayed gratification, essential aspects of self-regulation.

5. Role-playing and Scenario Discussions

Description: Use dolls, puppets, or even role-playing between teacher and student to practice pretend scenarios. Discuss proper responses to emotions or conflicts. If possible, use preferred characters from stories or shows they know, and talk about what they observe and how characters are interacting and responding.

Benefit: It allows children to practice regulating their emotions in a safe and controlled environment, preparing them for real-life situations.

self-regulation preschoolers puppets



Remember to frequently reinforce and praise when students use a strategy they have been taught or navigate a difficult emotion on their own! BIG WOO-HOO when you observe this! It goes a LONG way!

Every child develops at their own pace. Celebrate the small victories and remember that consistent practice and patience are key to mastering self-regulation.

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