Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Ready…Set…Wait…Still Wait…

By: Al Stewart

“On your mark, get set, ready…, wait!..., wait!..., wait!” How long do you think a preschooler can wait for you to say “Go”? How long could your child wait? The anticipation and excitement that build up while a child is waiting to hear that two-letter word sometimes causes the child to just “go” without the cue. Why do you think that happens? It may be due to their level of “self-regulation” or “self-control”, two terms referring to the same thing but each preferred by different experts. There may be a number of reasons for low “self-regulation/self-control” in young children. Two reasons are not enough practice and the “demand” for immediate gratification. In other words, children are, typically not waiting for anything. Everything is rush, rush, rush, and/or let’s do it now.

It is believed, by some experts, that there are certain skills everyone needs to be successful in their life journey. Here are a few of them – communication, critical thinking, self-direction, initiation, relating to others, cooperation, confidence, and, of course, self-regulation/self-control. Let’s focus on the last pair in this list. What can we do to help young children acquire these important character trait?

Playing games that require turn-taking, such as “Mother, May I?”, “Red Light, Green Light”, “Hide-and-Seek”, and many age-appropriate board games, is a way to enhance this skill.  It is somewhat of a challenge for young children to have to take turns, or wait until it is their turn, while playing games. Since playing games with rules is the highest stage of play for young children, it is important to be sure the games chosen are age-appropriate. The games mentioned earlier are based on movement, which is good for many reasons. Taking giant steps, bunny jumps, leaps, or hops is great for increasing heart rate. Be sure to vary the wait times prior to allowing them to run, jump, twirl, slide, or hop. That is one of the fun aspects of “Mother, May I?” Focus is an underlying skill needed in this game also. Remembering to say “Mother, may I?” AND to receive permission, before moving is essential. It is no fun to have to go back to the starting line. “Simon Says”, “Statue”, and songs such as Choosy Kids “Freeze” also allow opportunities for self-regulation/self-control to be enhanced. There are a number of children’s musicians who have songs that ask children to “be still” for various lengths of time.
Meal times provide another opportunity to support self-regulation/self-control in young children. It may also reinforce this character trait in some adults, which could be a benefit for the entire family. Allowing children to help prepare meals and snacks teaches responsibility and helps build self-confidence. Not only is waiting for everyone to be seated and served before each person begins to eat considered good manners, it also increases self-regulation. Mealtime provides an opportunity for conversation to take place and is another chance for young children to wait their turn, before speaking. Another positive by-product of this process is giving everyone some “down time” to sit, wait, and converse.

These are just a couple of specific situations that would allow young children to develop the skill, or trait, of self-regulation/self-control. Think of other opportunities throughout the day when adults may be able to help children practice this important behavior, such as sharing story time, waiting in line at the grocery store, getting ready for bed, and maybe even preparing to go to the park or another special event. Build the excitement, but be sure to add a little wait time in the formula. “On your mark, get set, ready…, wait…, wait..., wait…, GO!


About the Author: Al Stewart has work in the early childhood field for 42 plus years including the public school sector in Texas for 34 years as a teacher, early childhood special/general education specialist and consultant as well as Head Start. After he retired, he started his own consulting business, A. Stewart Consulting, and continued his passion for teaching by conducting training sessions for teachers in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade and administration throughout the country.

38 comments :

  1. Good thoughts here, really like the way you lay it out, thanks for posting :)

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    1. You're welcome! I am glad you enjoyed it!

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  2. Very interesting to think about, something we will experiment with for sure :)

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    1. Exactly! Well worth seeing how your kids react :)

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  3. This sounds like a great book for anyone with a young child to read. Thanks for reviewing!

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    1. I'm sorry, but this wasn't a book review.

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  4. I miss Red Light, Green Light! Good thoughts to help teach our kids these skills.

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    1. Yea...some good old fashion red rover would be fun too!

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  5. My kids are all grown up but now we're teaching this to my grandson. Great post. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. All generations love these games!! Thanks for stopping by!

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  6. Oh I loved red light, green light growing up!! Brings back some fond memories- excellent game choice by the way!

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    1. And I'm sure you had no clue that it was teaching you valuable lessons :)

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  7. Dinner time was always an "all family should be at the table, no excuses" time. When you grow up you realize how important that time was, especially for children.

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    1. That is awesome. Eating meals together is such a bonding experience.

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  8. Omg red light green light! I loved that game as a kid! I have to say, I think I'm a terrible critical thinker lol. But hopefully I make up for that with all the other skills haha!

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    1. Haha! I'm sure you def rock at other skills!!

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  9. Waiting and patience is such an important skill. You have some great activities for making learning to wait more fun.

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    1. Thank you. We try to always make learning fun!

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  10. Great advance and even better examples! Thanks

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    1. You're welcome! Thanks for stopping by!

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  11. Oh wonderful post. I agree that patience is such an important skill. It's something we definitely have to practice (I have a 19 month old).

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    1. It is so hard at a young age but games, like the ones that were mentioned, help to teach these important lessons.

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  12. This is great advice! It seems like a constant battle to teach patience... I guess I need to be patient in teaching patience :)

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    1. Hahahaha you are so right!! Just think of the patience teachers and parents have! It is a lot!!!

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  13. Great! It is such a great skill for kids to Lear to wait.

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    1. Yes because we wait more often than not for things. It is hard but we have to learn about it.

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  14. These are great tips. My toddler can't even wait until the "all fall down" part of Ring Around the Rosy" to collapse on the floor. We need some impulse control/self-regulation around here!

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    1. Haha!! That is funny! Kids will learn :) don't worry!

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  15. What a fantastic post!!! We love red light-green light, and also "What Time is it Mr Wolf"
    Another one that require patience, logic and gentle hands is kerpluck (but you need to buy it).

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    1. Kerplunk is an excellent game. I bet our crafters out there could make it!! But yes, game like that and stacking games like Jenga take on a whole new level of patience...patience with objects!

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  16. Thank you for the great ideas! We already do a few of these but I don't think I've ever taught my children mother may I? yet! My oldest loves what time is it mr. Fox the best so far out of these games. Red Rover is another fun game in the same category.

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    1. Good luck with teaching a new game. Sometimes that takes all the patience in the world :)

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  17. Kids need to practice waiting and patience. This is great.

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    1. Thank you and yes, it truly is practice and doesn't just happen over night.

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  18. Those games are CLASSICS!!! Thank you for reminding me of how awesome they are!!

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    1. You are so welcome. Like a trip down memory lane, right?! Just makes you want to go play!!

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