Impulse Control Games for Children

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Children that learn impulse control at an early age often have better grades and a more successful lifestyle later. Impulse control also helps children stop and think before they act, reducing poor behavior and allowing children to interact positively and healthily with others. Both average children and children with cognitive disorders can benefit from impulse control games.

1 Keeping the Rhythm

Children often enjoy this game because they get to make noise and even control some of the game. However, drumming in time with others teaches children economy of movement and reduces disruptiveness, according to Kids at Thought. Acquire a few drums or make some from pots and pans or coffee cans. Sit with your children and bang on your drum very loudly. Ask your children whether the noise was loud or soft. Allow them to bang and ask you the same. After a minute or two, have your children follow a rhythm that you tap out. As they progress, have them perform exercises like four soft taps and one loud tap or have them tap along with a piece of rhythmic music.

2 Picture Perfect

This activity encourages your child to stop and think before he calls out or interrupts. Take him outside to a park or other visually-stimulating area. Tell him you’re going to play a game and give him a pencil and paper. Choose an object and tell your child something like “I see something tall and green.” Instead of shouting what the object is, your child must write down the answer or draw a picture of it. If he writes or draws successfully, he gets a point. If he shouts, he loses a point. You can also perform this activity with two or three children. After playing the game, ask your child how he felt when he couldn’t shout out and what benefits he gained by waiting. This way, he can learn to self-regulate.

3 Self-Talk Role Play

Modeling behavior helps children understand what they are supposed to do to regulate themselves. By performing role play with your child, she’ll see and understand what she’s supposed to do instead of showing anger and frustration. For instance, if your child gets angry when asked to put her toys away, play a game and ask her to be the mommy. Sit on the floor and play with her toys until “mommy” tells you to stop. Pretend to get very angry and say aloud, “That makes me angry! I want to throw my toys!” Next, take a deep breath and think, saying out loud, “But if I throw my toys I’ll be in trouble. If I do what mommy says, I won’t be in trouble and we can have fun together.” Take a few exaggerated breaths to calm down. Afterward, talk to your child about how she feels when she gets frustrated or upset. Practice some deep breathing and help her count to five when you note signs of frustration. By making this into a game, your child will associate it with positive feelings and be more likely to remember the exercises.

4 Red Light, Green Light

This classic childhood game can help your child learn to control herself through play. Place some of your child’s favorite activities or toys in a red basket. Set a green basket next to it. Explain the rules of the game to your child, saying that when she stops at the command “red light,” she gets a treat in the green basket. If she continues running, you’ll move a treat back to the red basket. When she gets the “red light” and “green light” commands down, add “yellow light” as a command to walk slowly. You can even let your child pick the toys, books or craft activities she would like as rewards. Movies, favorite fruits and activities written on slips of paper also work well.