Self-Regulation, Self-Soothing, and Preschoolers: Where To Begin

As the parent of a toddler, I know how frequently one finds themselves in the following situation:  you’re in a restaurant, at a party, or in the grocery store, and your child starts misbehaving, getting upset, and generally causing a scene.  What’s a parent to do?  All too often, a simple solution might be to hand your child your almighty iPhone (or other technological device).  The child is distracted and quiet, and your day can go on as planned.  Effective?  Perhaps.  Good for your child? Not necessarily.

Reading a book can help children self-soothe and regulate their bodies.

In recent years, self-regulation skills have been affected by the increase in availability of technology.  Self-regulation is the ability to understand and manage your behavior and reactions to things happening around you.  For infants and toddlers, the ability to self-soothe (comforting himself/herself when he/she is upset) is the first step in self-regulation.  For older children, self-soothing occurs through doing something that relaxes them. When children rely only on a technological device to self-soothe, it becomes difficult to utilize their five senses to help calm and relax their bodies and minds.  These are all skills supported and reinforced in learning-through-play curriculum at The International Preschools.

A healthy snack is sometimes all children need to calm their bodies down!

What are some things that parents can do to help their child increase their ability to self-soothe?  Here are some ideas:

  • Squeezing:  Toddlers and preschoolers “squeeze” items to help release tension and unhappy feelings.  A snuggle with a beloved stuffed animal or working with play dough or clay allows children to exert pressure (or tension) onto another item, resulting in relaxation for the child.
  • Deep Breaths:  Yoga for toddlers and preschoolers is quite effective in helping children soothe and regulate themselves.  Taking deep, mindful breaths can help calm your child and allow him/her to move on to the next part of the day.  A great way for children to practice deep breathing is to blow bubbles; this allows children to practice breathing in and out in a rhythmic pattern.
  • Music:  Calm, gentle music or simple, repetitive songs can help children redirect their minds and bodies.  A favorite song or a simple direction relayed in a sing-song manner can help divert children away from upsetting behavior.
  • Snack/Rest:  Sometimes, a child about to tantrum is in need of a snack or a nap.  By providing this, children learn what they need when these same feelings (a rumbling tummy, tired eyes) arise in the future.
  • Books:  Reading a book aloud engages several senses:  touch (by holding the book), hearing (listening to a story read aloud), and sight (looking at the pictures).  Redirecting a child’s attention to a favorite (or new!) book helps to streamline senses and regulate the body.

Be sure to look for next week’s blog, which will continue on the idea of self-regulation and how we can help strengthen these skills in toddlers and preschoolers!

For more information about The International Preschools and our admissions process, click here.

To take a peek into an IPS classroom and see what types of self-regulating activities the children are engaged in, click here.



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