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5 games you can play with your toddler that encourage self-control.


Play Red Light, Green Light.


Cut 2 large circles from red paper and green paper.


Glue them together. Write “go” on the green circle and “stop” on the red. If you’d like, glue on a popsicle stick to serve as a handle.


Have your child stand at the end of a hallway with you at the other end. Explain the rules: When you hold up the green circle he can take steps forward; when you hold up the red, he has to stop. When he gets close enough to hug you, he wins.


Why it works?


Games like this, which involve following directions and resisting the impulse to run forward, help children practice self-control.

Use pretend play to act out feelings.


Choose one of your child’s favorite stuffed animals or dolls and have it get a boo-boo and start crying.


Ask your child: What can you do to make the baby feel better? Encourage caring responses like rubbing the doll’s back or giving the doll a hug and kiss.



Why it works?


Role-playing in this way helps children “practice” self-control and develop empathy.


Make play a challenge.


Offer your child the chance to try a more challenging game—for example, walking along a line that you have taped on the floor in masking tape, or to hop from one point to another.


They may succeed the first time or they may need several tries to master the game. Help your child cope with their frustration if this task doesn’t come easily. Encourage them to keep at it, and let them know that learning a new skill takes time.


Why it works?


Games like these help your toddler express their interests, and emotions or meet their goals in an acceptable way.


Freeze Dance


Turn on the music. When the music stops your child has to freeze.





Why it works?


Your child will practice following instructions, improve their listening skills, and wait their turn. All of which help them practice regulating their emotions.


Simon Says


Children have to perform an action only when the leader says “Simon Say do…”. For example, if the leader says “Simon Says touch your toes” and all the children touch their toes. If the leader says “Touch your toes”, no one should touch their toes.


Why it works?


Simon Says is a great game to help wake up the brain-body connection and the result can be a more focused, attentive child. Using the hands and feet in coordination with the eyes has been shown to have a profound effect on sensory processing, develop attention, and encourage an overall ability to focus.


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