Kids don’t automatically learn impulse control and self-regulation – you have to teach them strategies to use! I have 8 impulse control activities for kids that work well for my students! Give them a try!
Bossing your body
I love to teach my students that they are the boss of their bodies. They don’t realize that their brain is in charge of their body’s movements. Once they learn that they have the power to control their body, they feel much more capable of showing self-regulation and impulse control. After teaching my students about this phrase and what it means, I can use the phrase when I notice that they are getting wiggly or impulsive. I simply say, “Boss your body” or I might say, “I notice your body is wiggly. You can boss your body – what strategy do you need?” Of course, this is after teaching them the strategies to try. After a while, these strategies start to sink in. One student I had, towards the end of kindergarten, turned to me once and said, “Mrs. McGibbon, my body is feeling wiggly. Can I take a walk?” It was the best day ever to have the student not only realize how their body was feeling, but also what they could do about it.
Impulse Control and Self-Regulation
Once students know they have the power to boss their body, I want to teach them to identify the different speeds their body can take and how it affects them and others. They learn that a slow body speed makes it harder to learn because they are sleepy or uninterested/unengaged. A just right speed is perfect for learning. And a body that is going too fast is often hurting others accidentally because they are running when they should be walking, or their body is wiggly and distracting others and themselves. After learning to identify the body speeds, we talk about specific strategies to use for a slow body and a fast body.
Students need to learn many different strategies for self-regulation because some strategies work better than others. These strategies must be taught when children are calm and in a place to learn, instead of when they are in crisis or when their bodies are going too slow or too fast. I like to teach new strategies during transitions to the rug or for a morning meeting activity or greeting. It is also important to teach students when these strategies will be helpful. For example, we use this chart to help students see that there are certain strategies that are better for slow body speeds and some that are best for fast body speeds. You can buy this chart separately or as a part of my Social Emotional Learning Unit: Impulse Control & Self-Regulation.
Looking for other strategies to teach your students? Check out these free strategy cards!
You might also like these books from my Amazon storefront to help teach impulse control and self-regulation strategies!
Activities to practice
In addition to teaching students different strategies for self-regulation, we also want to use impulse control activities for kids to give them a chance to actually practice those skills! Below are some of my favorites! If you ever have the chance to take these activities outside or to the gym, they will be even better with more space to move!
Red light green light
A classic game but one that is really helpful to practice impulse control! Students have the goal to get from one side of the room to another, but they have to freeze every time you say, “Red Light!” They can’t move again until you say, “Green Light!” You can change up what green light means – maybe it is walk, skip, hop, walk on one foot, you decide! You can also add in other lights, like yellow lights. Maybe yellow lights is hop on one foot! This impulse activity for kids helps them to stop their body from getting to the end and winning and instead following the directions being called out to them.
Another classic impulse activity for kids- freeze dancing! Simply pop on a fun song they enjoy and let them dance! Then pause the song and they all must freeze! This really shows them that they are the bosses of their bodies and that they can tell their body to stop dancing and to stay frozen until the music returns!
This is a fun impulse control activity for morning meeting or as a brain break in between subjects. You give the students a few directions but show them what the opposite of the direction would be. For example, “If I say stand up, you sit down. If I say dance, you freeze or if I say freeze, you dance. And finally, if I say talk, you are quiet, and if I say quiet, you can chat with the people nearby.” Then you give students the directions and they have to hear your direction, remember the opposite, and tell their brain to do the opposite of what you just said. They always have a lot of fun with this one and it is great practice for them.
This is probably the best impulse control activity for kids that I know of. You tell the students that you have some bubbles (and who doesn’t love bubbles!) but they are not allowed to pop the bubbles until you say your “magic words”. Magic words could be whatever you want, but in my classroom, I use these after giving directions. My students know not to start following directions until I say, “Go ahead”. So, have students stand nearby and then start blowing bubbles everywhere. Wait a few seconds and then, before the bubbles hit the floor, let them start popping the bubbles. Then gather everyone together to do it again a few more times. It takes so much impulse control for kids to not pop the bubbles, that this is such a good impulse control activity for them. After the activity, debrief with them. Ask them how it felt to boss their body!
Children need to learn strategies for self-regulation and impulse control, and they need to be able to practice them with different impulse control activities for kids. Which activity are you the most excited to try with your students? Let me know in the comments!
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