Community Helpers Part 2 and the Letter Q
Although we have written about emotions in a previous newsletter, self regulation is an aspect of emotional development so important that it has earned an extra post here, courtesy of Brandy Wells, owner/author of My Motherhood Magic (via PBS Kids):
Close your eyes and picture this. Your 2-year-old is racing around the house when they suddenly notice a sibling playing with a shiny toy. The toddler rushes over and snatches away the toy, screaming “Mine!” As the kids start to chase each other, they miss a step and tumble. All you hear is screams . . .
Does this sound familiar? I’m raising a toddler and a tween, so tumbles and tantrums seem like everyday occurrences in my home. I am here to tell you that we can decrease breakdowns by understanding our role, as parents, in developing our children’s self-regulatory skills.
What is Self-Regulation?
Self-regulation is the process that your child’s brain goes through that gives them the ability to control their behaviors and emotions in response to a particular situation. It’s having the skill to calm yourself down when you get upset, to adjust to a change in environment or expectations, and to handle frustration without outbursts. When children share, listen to others, or wait their turn, they are practicing self-control. It’s what we as parents call a “win!”
Self-regulation is a foundational skill of early childhood. It’s the seed we plant that allows children to grow into adults who can manage their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. If we give children strategies to stay calm in stressful situations, they develop strong habits that they can apply in the future. Remember, there is not a single event that will magically kickstart a child’s perfect self-regulation. Just as children physically develop at different rates, they develop self-control at different rates as well. Building your child’s self-regulation toolkit requires thoughtful planning and understanding.
Simple Ways to Teach Self-Regulation
Throwing tantrums and acting out are natural but ineffective ways to handle high-stimulation situations. We can help our children by teaching them how to calm down effectively or to avoid impulsive reactions. Think about how we teach kids to ride a bike: It takes practice, patience, and more practice!
In the same way, we can coach our kids as they build their self-control muscles! For example, perhaps playdates with peers is a time when your child experiences negative emotions or has a hard time with social skills. Use these playdates as a chance to coach positive social behavior — offering breaks and using lots of descriptive praise for small accomplishments. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see immediate results.
Here are some simple ways to support your child’s self-regulation skills on a daily basis:
1. Rest and Nutrition!
We have all seen how lack of sleep, dehydration, or a hungry stomach can derail a day! If we want to teach kids social-emotional skills, we also need to attend to their rest and nutrition. Sometimes what a tantrum-throwing toddler needs most in the moment is a snack or a nap.
2. Breath in the Fresh Air
Provide opportunities for free play and outdoor play. Let the energy out. Increased heart rate = more blood flow to the brain = more brain power. When my older daughter starts to feel emotionally dysregulated, she often takes a walk in the fresh air. As her body begins to fill with happy hormones, her affect becomes calmer. You can also check out these active games that support self-regulation.
3. Blow Away Troubles
Blowing bubbles is a kid-friendly way to practice deep breathing — and deep breathing calms the body down. Plus, who doesn’t like bubbles?! When you blow bubbles too quickly or too slow, it doesn’t work. You need to breathe from the belly, at a regular tempo. Speaking of deep breathing, yoga is another great way for kids to connect with their bodies and stay focused and calm. Try adding 15 minutes a day or a quick session after a meltdown.
4. Read All About It!
Read books about emotions as a way to discuss all the feelings kids have. I love Todd Parr’s books (including The Feelings Bookand It’s Okay To Be Different) and the way he displays an array of feeling vocabulary. In addition, sensory “touch and feel” books can help hold your child’s attention during reading time and stimulate their senses.
5. Listen Up!
There also some great books and resources about mindfulness that can help your child learn to manage their big emotions and develop self regulation skills, including The Superkids Activity Guide to Conquering Every Day, The Preschool Toolbox's "Tips for Helping Preschoolers Be a Good Friend", and Headspace, an app, website (and new Netflix series) that teaches people of all ages how to meditate, and for children, explores the themes of calm, focus, kindness, sleep, and wake up. The book "We Don't Eat Our Classmates" by Ryan T. Higgins is a fun story as well, about a dinosaur's first day of school and the big emotions she has to get under control if she's going to make friends. You can check out the video read aloud from Mrs. Marzolf below.
Zoo Phonic Friend: Queenie Quail
Queenie Quail is our Zoo Phonic friend this week. As you teach about the letter Q, you may want to also incorporate a quilt, queen (time for a princess movie or card game perhaps?), quarters, some good natured "quacking," some questions (the game 20 Questions could work) or maybe a little quiet time. If you have Q-tips at home, you could use them for a fun art project, or take scraps of paper to make a paper quilt. The Storybots song, "A Question for Q," or the book "The Quiet Quail" are both cute and available through YouTube (see below) if you're interested in a video to supplement.
Community Helpers Part 2
Last week's newsletter was focused primarily on police and postal workers, but there are so many different types of community helpers and we aren't able to spend enough time on each one individually to do them justice. There are some links below to read alouds of books about some of these helpers, in addition to some craft and play suggestions you may wish to try out. When learning about these professions, our public library has a wonderful selection of nonfiction books for children. Nonfiction books are an important tool in learning and literacy development, so don't discount them, even though they may be less exciting for some children. If you are setting up dramatic play areas, keep in mind, they don't have to be elaborate. In fact, you can take regular household chores and turn them into play opportunities! For example, you may have extra boxes or cans sitting out that need recycled; this can be an opportunity to play "sanitation workers." Similarly, you can have your child help put away or organize groceries and play "grocery store." Or, you could set up a reading nook with dolls or stuffed animals and have your child play the librarian, or teacher. Your child can be a chef and help you in the kitchen, or use blocks or playdogh to create opportunities to play "construction worker." I hope this leads to fun for both you and your child!