The most important school readiness skill

Head-Toes-Knees- Shoulders

Remember the song, Head Shoulders Knees and Toes?  What if I told you that performing Head Toes Knees and Shoulders with your child would allow you to know if they were academically ready for school?  This simple task was studied by a group of researchers looking at self-regulation and the impact it has on academic achievement.  McClelland and a team of researchers had preschoolers touch their heads, touch their toes on command.  Then they made the task different by asking preschoolers to do the opposite of what they were saying.  They were looking to see how they pay attention, how they controlled their responses and how they remember rules.  All key skills in classrooms.

What the researchers found was that students who could complete this task had better academic achievement in kindergarten and had more school readiness skills.  Who knew a simple song could help predict your child’s ability to be successful in school?    Students who were able to go with the flow, follow directions and remember information were successful and showed to have higher academic success.

School Readiness

Children require more than just academic skills to be successful in school. Researchers have indicated that key skills in the areas of executive functioning including inhibitory control, working memory, and cognitive flexibility are key in helping children to succeed in school settings.  The ability to have self-regulation begins in preschool ages between 3 and 6 years of age, when many students are beginning their academic journey.  Schools are requiring our children to have this skill by the time they reach preschool in order to be successful.

What is Self-Regulation?

Self-regulation is the act of managing your thoughts and feelings to enable goal directed actions.  This skill is linked to students having higher success, being better members of society and really benefits all of us.  Focusing on developing these skills in preschool is great for getting a head start in academic success and continuing to encourage self-regulation in adolescence helps teens to be able to make better decisions and support their developmental brain growth during this time.

Start singing this song with your preschool and kindergarten age children now.  Children who are able to follow along are showing the ability to manage their impulse, they are able to follow directions and most importantly follow the rules. Self-regulation sets a student up for success when they are in a classroom that has rules.  Cognitive flexibility is also needed when looking at practicing this task, a skill that is needed in any classroom.

Self-regulation is a huge component of school and academic success. Many parents see this as emotional regulation which is a part of self-regulation.  Self-regulation can mean your child’s ability to manage their behavior, emotions and thoughts.  Studies are showing that the more students come to school with the ability to regulate themselves, the better school will be academically for them.  Students who are self-regulated in the classroom are able to follow directions, instructions participate in class with peers, and are able to focus on academic tasks like reading and mathematics.

Self-Regulation Tips for Early Learning and Elementary Age

Tip: Teach by your example. Model for your child a person that is able to manage stress and manage behaviors in a calm and controlled way.

Tip: Read books about calming down, managing emotions and behaviors.  Early exposure to stories help children to understand the concepts of calming down and regulating themselves.

Tip- Breathing exercise. Teaching children the art of breathing and relaxation is a great tool. Many books like Yoga Pretzels has cool breathing techniques for child.

Tip- Use bubbles. Bubbles is a great way to teach relaxation. 

Tip- Watch movies about feelings. Disney’s Inside Out is a great film to show children how emotions are managed in our body.

Tip- Play games.  Games like Simon Says or Red Light Green light are great ways to practice impulse control and help children to tune into their own movements.  It is really hard to win if you are not carefully controlling your movements.

Self-Regulation Tips for Middle School and High School Students

Tip: Play games like Jenga or Chess.  Games that require skill, control and mental focus are great ways to help children learn to manage emotions.

Tip: Keep a journal. Have your child use a journal to write out feelings from the day.  This can give them a safe place to let out their emotions and improve their emotional language.

Tip: Role play.  Have your child actually act out how they will respond in situations. They can become more aware of their verbal and nonverbal behaviors when role playing situations that may be stressful.

Tip: Mindfulness.  Teaching children to take a few minutes or moments a day to self-reflect and to be mindful is a good way to improve self-regulation skills.

Tip: Discuss what if scenarios.  Helping children to prepare for situations before they occur can help them to regulate themselves in the moment.

Check out my book on Amazon, Powerful, Peaceful Parenting.  Make sure to look for our videos on Youtube Channel Raising Black Genius.

Share this blog with another parent just like you, Raising Black Genius!

Dr. Stacy

Published by drstacyhayneslpc

Dr. Stacy Haynes, Ed.D LPC, ACS is a counseling psychologist who specializes in the needs of children, families and parenting concerns. Dr. Haynes has over 20 years experience in the treatment of everyday challenging family concerns. She believes in making a difference one person at a time. Little Hands Family Services, LLC was founded by Dr. Haynes in 2008, as an agency, provides quality evidence based treatment to help families heal and to solve the challenges of life. Dr. Haynes is available for speaking engagements, parenting workshops, school trainings, and individual counseling services. Dr. Haynes received her Bachelor's Degree in Psychology from Liberty University, her Master's Degree in Counseling Psychology from Bowie State University and her Doctorate Degree in Counseling Psychology from Argosy University. Dr. Haynes has been featured in newspapers, radio and television for her expertise in parenting and child related concerns. As an adjunct faculty and Continuing Education Instructor, Dr. Haynes provides education and instruction for the next generation of counselors and therapists. Dr. Haynes is a certified provider of the CPS model by Dr. Ross Greene in outpatient settings. Dr. Haynes maintains a weekly schedule of working with families in outpatient settings to continue her mission of helping parents and children heal relationships and restore peace in their homes.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: