Self-Regulation for Preschoolers – Using Rhythm and Movement

A recent study indicates that one way to encourage self-regulation for preschoolers is to use rhythm and movement as an intervention.

Do you want to help with self-regulation for preschoolers?  If yes, that is awesome because the ability to self-regulate in preschoolers is a predictor of school readiness and early school achievement. Self-regulation is the ability to monitor and manage your energy states, emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in ways that are acceptable and produce positive results such as well-being, loving relationships, and learning.

These skills need to be practiced and learned throughout early childhood to help when students become school age. One way to encourage self-regulation for preschoolers is to use rhythm and movement as an intervention.

Research Study on Self-Regulation for Preschoolers

A recent study examined the effectiveness of a preschool intervention for 16 sessions over the course of 8 weeks that included 113 children across three preschools in disadvantaged communities.  The intervention focused on coordinated rhythmic movement with music to improve self-regulation and executive function. Pre and post-testing were performed to measure executive function skills to compare the experimental group (preschoolers who participated in the movement intervention) and the control group (preschoolers who did not participate).

Specifics of the Rhythm and Movement Intervention

The 16 sessions consisted of stages that included progressively more challenging activities, in order to stimulate change in the development of self-regulation skills. All intervention activities incorporated practice time to develop skills in the following areas: attention, emotion, behavioral regulation, inhibition, shifting, and working memory. These skills were included in coordination movement activities and enhanced by rhythmic auditory cueing.

Activity examples to encourage self-regulation for preschoolers included start/stop games (inhibition), reversal of instruction (shifting, e.g. change the rules of freeze dance – move when the music plays and dance when the music stops), working memory games, and beat synchronization to changing tempos.

Each session followed a routine of 7 steps: warm-up involving body percussion; early childhood song; moving to the beat with gross motor movements; playing to the beat involving simple rhythm sticks or castanets; dancing to the beat involving slightly more complex gross motor movement patterns, visual-motor skills and coordination skills; moving to a story with percussion sounds involving working memory to recall how to move throughout the story; and calming yoga for emotional regulation.

Results of the Study

Following the 16-week intervention data analysis indicated the following:

  • positive intervention effects for emotional regulation reported by teachers.
  • positive intervention effects for shifting in the executive function assessment for boys.
  • teachers reported cognitive and behavioral regulation also improved in one preschool.

The researchers concluded that rhythm and movement interventions have the potential to support the development of self-regulation skills for preschoolers.

Reference:  Williams, K. E., & Berthelsen, D. (2019). Implementation of a rhythm and movement intervention to support self-regulation skills of preschool-aged children in disadvantaged communities. Psychology of Music, 0305735619861433. You can read more here.

Additional Resources to Help with Self-Regulation for Preschoolers

The Adventure Skill Self-Regulation Flash Cards are printable 11″ x 8.5” cards in PDF format, with colorful images on the front and easy-to-follow directions on the back.

They offer child-friendly activities that support well-being, physical development and enhance social-emotional learning. The 16 Adventure Skill Self-Regulation Flash Cards are all of the kid-friendly health and self-regulation techniques taught and used in the yoga adventures

Use them at home and at school to:

  • encourage physical activity
  • take a brain break
  • Teach/Reinforce the use of the Scooter & Me Adventure Skills
  • Manage stress and enhance well-being, focus, and learning
  • Develop impulse control, thoughtful behavior, and emotional resilience

The activities are a combination of creative movement, yoga, Brain Gym(R), and educational research to optimize physical and cognitive development.  FIND OUT MORE.

A recent study indicates that one way to encourage self-regulation for preschoolers is to use rhythm and movement as an intervention.