Impulse Control Activities & Games for Children

Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

Impulse control is a vital skill for all children as they grow older. However, young children find it very difficult indeed. We can help them grow their impulse control skills with activities and games, such as the ones we provide in this lesson.

Impulse Control Activities and Games

Impulse control can be very challenging for young students. Students rarely want to defy adults at a young age, but rather they need to learn to control themselves through practice. There are many things that parents and teachers can do which cause impulse control to get worse. For example, if parents or teachers have been inconsistent with doing what they said they would, it can teach students not to delay gratification. If students get exactly what they want, then it teaches them to demand it immediately as well. Thankfully there are certain games and activities that students can take part in which help them learn how to control their impulses through practice.

Patience Prizes

Patience prizes occur when students are given the option of having a small prize right away, a medium prize later on, or a large prize further into the future. This can be a standard practice in any game or activity. If a prize is offered, give students these three options, and let them pick. This will encourage them to delay gratification, and realize that it is better to wait for things. Even simple reward schemes like star charts can achieve the same thing, if students can redeem large numbers of stars for particularly exciting prizes.

Freeze and Reverse Games

Some of the best kinds of impulse control games are freeze activities. This is where a student must do an activity, and then freeze on command. For example, students could dance around the classroom, and then freeze in place when the music stops. Alternatively, you could have an activity where students run or skip around the classroom on a green traffic light, and then have to freeze on a red traffic light.

To multiply the beneficial effect of such activities, occasionally change the rules. Switch the meaning of the red and green lights, or have them dance fast to slow music, and slow to fast music. This forces them to have to think about what they're doing, and does a far better job of growing impulse control than the basic version of the game. The other great thing about these games is that they involve exercise. Exercise releases endorphins which improve students' focus on themselves.

Traffic Lights and Remote Controls

Props like traffic lights and remote controls can be used to give students the idea of pausing and not immediately reacting. Students need to learn to stop, think about their feelings and what is happening, and then make a conscious decision to act in a certain way. A traffic light can represent this with a red light meaning stop, a yellow light meaning think, and a green light meaning go. Remote controls can also be used, where students pause to think, and can even rewind to try responding differently to a situation. These can be used by acting out certain scenarios, and having students practice figuring out the best way to react to that scenario. It can also be used as a way to mediate and deal with conflicts as they occur.

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