When COVID-19 thrusted us into distance learning, many parents of preschoolers felt tasked with the need to get their children ready for kindergarten. Relax, you’ve got this. While you may feel the pressure to teach your child the A,B,C’s and 1,2,3’s, the truth is your child’s social skills in kindergarten are more important than their academics. In fact, this past fall, I presented on this very topic at the National Association of the Education of Young Children National Conference.
Early childhood research reveals that social skills are actually far more predictive of outcomes in adulthood than early academics. In addition, studies have concluded that improving self-regulation in children can improve academic achievement and behavioral responses. So, what is self-regulation? Self-regulation is the ability to manage your emotions and behavior in accordance with the demands of the situation. Some children are better at managing their big emotions than others. How can we help them? With MOVEMENT!
While playing movement games, children must wait for directions and wait their turn, both of which work on impulse control. Listening, remember instructions, and following motor commands work on language skills, memory skills, motor skills. Also, when finished, children often feel success in completing the game giving them a sense of accomplishment.
As a movement specialist, I believe children learn self-regulation and other crucial “non-cognitive” skills best while playing movement games. Why movement?
- Movement increases circulation to the brain -> better brain function
- Movement reduces stress
- Movement helps to develop balance and coordination
- Movement contributes to the recommended amount of physical activity needed.
What are the best movement games to work on self-regulation? Some of the oldies but goodies like Red light/green light, Simon says, and Duck, duck, goose are fun games that do the trick. Putting music on and having a dance party and then add “freeze” by turning on/off the music is another fun way to work on balance and self-regulation. Yoga is a great calming activity for self-regulation.
Distance learning during this time may make you feel like your preschool child needs to learn their academics via worksheets and handouts. The reality is that the “non-cognitive” social skills they are gaining with you at home simply by playing, moving, and interacting will serve them well in Kindergarten and beyond.