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Activities to Teach Children Impulse Control

by Jennifer Zimmerman

Learning to control impulses in childhood means you'll be able to control them in adulthood, when the consequence of punching the guy who called you a name is jail time, not a time-out. Scholastic.com reports that kids with poor impulse control can also struggle with learning because they have less mental capacity available for learning. Helping children develop impulse control is an important factor in helping them be successful and satisfied later in life.

Be Active

Any opportunity children have to be active can help them with impulse control. Not only does exercise boost the brain chemicals that help with impulse control, it also improves concentration, memory and self-control, according to myhealthnewsdaily.com. Ensuring that children are active through organized sports, recess or even just dancing around the living room is an effective way to teaching impulse control.

Memory Games

Scholastic.com reports that memory games help children with impulse control by enhancing memory, which allows the brain's frontal cortex to focus more on impulse control. Play the traditional Memory game in which people take turns flipping two cards up as they try to find matches. Another game for improving memory is what PBS Kids calls "Stare Detective." Every player gets 15 seconds to stare at a tray full of objects, then the tray is covered with a towel. Next players have 20 seconds to write down as many of the objects as they can remember. Whoever has the most correct objects written is the winner.

Control Building Games

Physical self-control is an excellent starting point for teaching mental self-control. Plus, games that involve physical impulse control are more developmentally appropriate for children. The traditional games such as Simon Says and Red Light/Green Light are effective for teaching self-control but may not be so exciting for your elementary school student. So another option is to play, Freeze. With Freeze, children dance to music while the teacher holds up a picture of a stick figure in a certain position. The children are supposed to observe the figure while dancing their own way; it is only when the music stops that they should get into the position. So not only do the work on their self-control by following challenging directions, they also work on memory skills by remembering the position after the music stops and the picture is taken down.

Creative Play

Some researchers, according to a 2008 National Public Radio report, suggest that children today don't learn to self-regulate as well because they spend most of their time in adult-directed activities. Free play with peers used to be when many children learned impulse control, but without that time, children don't develop their executive function skills. So providing the time and the context for free imaginary play is an important activity for teaching impulse control. Children need to make up stories and songs, draft playmates as characters and turn sticks into magic wands.

About the Author

Jennifer Zimmerman is a former preschool and elementary teacher who has been writing professionally since 2007. She has written numerous articles for The Bump, Band Back Together, Prefab and other websites, and has edited scripts and reports for DWJ Television and Inversion Productions. She is a graduate of Boston University and Lewis and Clark College.

Photo Credits

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