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2 min read

The million dollar question - why does it seem like young children are compulsively drawn to the messiest, most dangerous activities?

Why do they want to stick their hand right into a bowl of pancake batter or cover themselves in glitter the second you turn your back???

It can be so frustrating when they do these seemingly odd and unexplainable things but know that it is developmentally normal.

Children can be naturally impulsive because they are little scientists. Being impulsive is how they experiment with the world.

They also don’t have the life experience to know what is dangerous or the cognitive ability to predict dangerous results. If they’re curious about something, they’re going to want to explore it.

It's not until around age four that children start to develop "good" impulse control. (Source: nih.gov)

Even then, this doesn’t mean they have total self-control at age four. It continues to develop throughout childhood.

How To Help Your Child Develop Impulse Control

You can begin by introducing stop/go/wait activities as young as 18 months.

When we introduce these activities at an early age, the development of self control will happen more naturally because they bring an awareness to the body while helping children practice controlling their bodies, breath, and speech.

You can begin with simple turn taking, while you’re playing or tidying up. This teaches patience and control of the body because they must wait for their turn.

Just note that you should temper your expectations for turn-taking, as well as any of the activities below. By understanding what your child is developmentally capable of, you'll set them up for success.

Other Fun Activities You Can Do to Develop Self-Control:

  1. Freeze Dance - you can use a freeze dance song (like any of the ones from the Kiboomers album Freeze Dance Songs for Learning) or any song your child enjoys that you start and stop. It's a good idea to play along too so that you can role model.
  2. The Quiet Game - set a timer or use your hand to count silently and sit without talking for just 5 seconds. Once your child has mastered 5 seconds, you go up to 10 seconds and so on.
  3. Red Light/Green Light
  4. Simon Says
  5. Yoga
  6. Follow the Leader - make one child the leader and everyone has to follow their actions. Take turns being the leader.

When These Activities Will NOT Work

Your child has to want to participate in the activities for this to help. If they’re not interested, that’s okay. They’re just not quite ready yet. Try again in a month or when you observe they may be more willing.

The Benefits of Better Impulse Control

The same study linked above, found that individuals who have strong self-control in early childhood are more successful in school, as well as more likely to have successful careers and harmonious family relationships in adulthood.

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