Self-Regulation – What every child needs to learn


The importance of children developing their self-regulation in the early years is a vital tool which allows them to navigate their way through life. This tool enables an individual to have the ability to return to a relaxed and calm emotional state as well as, manage their behaviour, energy and attention after experiencing external interferences such as noise, stress, trauma, lack of sleep, lighting, and food and nutrition.
Children learn through observing the world around them and seek adults who have the ability to be calm, and provide a safe and secure environment. Children need adults who can provide a predictable routine, listen to them and acknowledge their needs and wants. They also carefully watch adults who are able to steer their way through obstacles, observing how they react to these challenges and their ability to acknowledge and label their own emotions.
Children begin to learn to self-regulate from infancy known as other-regulated. During this time, children depend on adults to feed them, soothe them and aid them in falling asleep. As children grow older they then move into the next stage which is co-regulation. During this period, a child spends time with an adult as they teach, talk, listen, coach, sooth the child, before gradually ‘stepping back’ as the child progresses in developing their full self-regulation skills. In order for a child to develop self-regulation, they must participate in co-regulation first. An example of this for most toddler aged children is ensuring that it is developmentally appropriate, such as ensuring they do not sit for long periods of time, rather short periods of time that engage the children in an activity that’s of their interest.

There are several ways that we can support children in successfully developing self-regulation by offering activities such as: