School readiness is not about shapes, colors, letters, or numbers

Children’s ability to succeed in school is determined much more by “process” factors, such as self-control and attention, than by discrete pieces of knowledge that can be taught with flashcard drills.

These factors, called executive function and self-regulation skills, become more adult-like in the latter half of the early childhood years simply by children:

  • engaging in rich play (think of all the problem-solving required to play house or cops and robbers)
  • Being given increasing responsibility and opportunities to practice these skills during normal household activities (like grocery shopping)

Try these games to further support children’s executive function and self-regulation skills.

Tricky Simon Says

[img_caption align=”right” alt=”Bear saying, Touch your nose.”]Using two different stuffed animals, such as a bear and a dog, have the children follow the commands of only the bear (e.g., “touch your nose”). This requires self-control to not perform the activity the dog suggests. After several tries, switch the rule to the other animal.

Trickier: You can make the game more difficult by adding other rules that require children to not perform the instinctive behavior. For example, tell them they have to touch their nose when an animal says touch their head, and touch their head when the animal says touch their nose.

Backwards Peanut Butter & Jelly

Show children a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and have them “reverse engineer” it. Ask them to think about all the steps and materials needed to make that sandwich and then give you step-by-step instructions.

If a child says, “First, you put the peanut butter on the bread,” put the closed jar of peanut butter right on top of the bag of bread. Ask, “Does this look like a delicious sandwich?” to demonstrate the silly results when you don’t plan correctly. Try a similar activity with a completed craft, such as a collage that requires scissors, glue, and two colors of paper.

About the professor

[img_caption src=”” link=”” align=”right” alt=”Amanda Moreno”]Professor Moreno has more than 20 years of experience in the field of early child development, including direct service, curriculum and assessment development, social policy, community partnerships, program evaluation, and original research.

Her research focuses on adult-child interactions and how these can serve as a buffering influence for children who have experienced adversity.