Teaching Self-Regulation to Preschoolers

teaching self regulation to preschoolers

Young children in preschool are in a brilliant stage of rapid brain development. These quick changes pave the way for the growth of self-regulation skills. Working on self-regulation skills in preschool is an investment for the student in the long run since self-regulation is proven to lead to success in later stages. A child’s ability to self-regulate is an indicator of many things down the road, like fewer behavioral difficulties, better performance in school, and better relationships with those around them.

Self-regulation is how we manage our thoughts and feelings to allow for goal-directed actions. Self-regulation looks like finding ways to cope with strong feelings and, in turn, not feeling overwhelmed by emotion. It also looks like practicing focus, the ability to shift attention, and successfully managing behaviors required to work well with others and move in the direction of our goals.

How Can We Teach Self-Regulation?

Child psychologists have said that acting out is a response to a stimulus. Some preschoolers may be more temperamentally sensitive and easily stressed by sensory intake. On the other hand, some children may encounter a greater number of stressors in their surroundings. In both of these cases, outside influences can make it more difficult for young children to self-regulate.

In a Montessori classroom environment, we think of self-regulation as a skill to be taught rather than simply chalking it up to bad behavior. When teaching self-regulation to preschoolers, we approach self-regulation skills the same way we approach other skills, academic or social. We observe responses to stimuli, isolate the skill that needs work and provide ways the child can practice that skill.

By changing the attitude and outlook on children’s habits of acting out, we can change the tone and content of the feedback you give children. Positive feedback and motivation make learning new self-regulation an easy and beneficial journey for young learners. With intervention and backing from teachers and parents, children can build new skills to manage their thoughts, behaviors, and feelings.

Creating the Foundation

One way to help preschoolers improve their self-regulation skills is by building an environment that eliminates as many stressors as possible. Structure within the classroom makes self-regulation manageable and assists by creating a buffer against environmental stressors. In a Montessori preschool classroom, we take great care to design a classroom with a sense of order and thoughtful arrangement. By creating an environment that is physically and emotionally safe for children to explore, they can learn at their level of development without factors like distraction or stress.

In addition to the right classroom environment, Montessori preschool classrooms provide consistent and predictable routines for children, promoting a sense of security and comfort. We also set clear, consistent expectations for behavior and goals for self-regulation, encouraging the students in their growth.


One of the simplest ways to ensure that your preschooler develops good self-regulation skills is to make sure they have good models of self-regulating behavior. As parents, you can work to provide an open, responsive relationship where your preschooler feels respected as an individual. By providing comfort and support in times of stress, you give your child confidence that they will always have your care. A positive relationship and positive modeling promote self-reliance in young children and enable preschoolers to practice their new skills and learn from their blunders.

While you are modeling good self-regulation skills at home, Montessori instructors mirror those skills in the classroom. We teach and guide self-regulation skills through instruction, providing opportunities for practice, prompting skill implementation, modeling positive skills, and reinforcing their growth.


Child psychologists claim that a big key to learning self-regulation is to confront difficult situations rather than avoid them. By coaching them through and providing a support system to work through their reactions or scaffolding, we can encourage preschoolers’ development until they are ready to handle challenges on their own. 

In terms of self-regulation, scaffolding may mean helping the child with one issue and then allowing them to solve the rest. It may also look like taking breaks in times of frustration, like taking deep breaths or getting up to get a drink. Other scaffolding strategies include using a timer to take breaks. Scaffolding provides measurable goals for young children, allowing them to recognize and celebrate their progress.


Along with modeling and creating a productive environment, practicing skills like reflection and analysis helps children make better choices. In settings or situations that are emotional and fast-paced, young children may become overstimulated and struggle to process their options. Mindfulness and meditation are beneficial for everyone, especially children with trouble self-regulating. Slowing down allows preschoolers to become more reflective, patient, and aware.


Reading with young children delivers several benefits to their growing minds. Reading books about intense emotions or struggles with behavior is a method of sparking discussion about all the feelings children have. In addition to books about feelings and reactions, touch and feel books that incorporate the senses can hold their attention during reading time and help soothe them.

Self-regulation plays a substantial and foundational role in promoting wellness throughout your child’s life, including bodily, emotional, and social health. This wellness carries over into your student’s educational achievement. The power to regulate thoughts, feelings, and behaviors helps preschoolers successfully navigate many of the problems that arise, encouraging soundness and confidence in the face of a challenge.

Montessori Children’s Center applies the educational philosophy and methods of Maria Montessori, M.D., a renowned Italian physician, and child educator. Our teaching method is based on the belief that each child is born into this world full of potential. We aim to help your child reach their greatest potential. Visit our blog to learn more about our method or reach out today to begin your journey with Montessori Children’s Center.

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