Self-regulation is a critical life competency that opens the door to learning, communication, and play. Without it, the brain and body are too disorganized to take in new and changing information. Yet, self-regulation is really hard to teach. We can talk about it. We can practice it. We can provide behavioral rewards. However, in order for children to understand that self-regulation is important, we must help them find ways to use it and notice the benefits themselves. Ah… there’s the challenge.
We have used a wonderful little Zenergy chime to help children develop this intrinsic understanding of self-regulation in 3 different and progressive ways with our young children in Social Adventures groups. Our youngest group of 4 year olds had no interest or ability to stay with the group or play with one another once they entered the gym area. They didn’t seem to understand that the point of the group was to learn to play with each other. “But I want to do what I want to do! I don’t want to do what he is doing!” Sometimes they were very polite about it. “No thanks, I’ll just play over here by myself.” As they ran raucously around the gym, voices intensified, bodies crashed into one another and hearts, heads and bodies were hurt.
We then instituted chime time. The kids were free to play but when they heard the chime, they needed to run to the mat, sit cross-legged and fold their hands in their laps. They were then asked to breathe slowly in and out as one of the group leaders slowly released one finger at a time from her fists to provide a visible example of the speed of breath.
This gave the children enough time to breathe and become a little better regulated before heading back out to play. Over time, we began to lengthen the time and purpose of the chime break. We noted when their breathing slowing down. We emphasized deeper breaths and longer exhalations. We commented that our bodies feel so much better when we can slow our heart down by breathing deeply. We then began to add, “Now what will you play together when you go back?” and the kids started suggesting ideas to one another! If they happened to have been playing together before the chime rang, we helped them reflect on the fun they were having together. The kids in the group began saying, “It’s chime time!” when they felt things were getting out of control. And there it is: self-regulation! Next blog I’ll write about a second way we like to use the chime in our groups. We would love to hear your ideas about how you use the chime or other strategies for self-regulation.
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