Self-Regulation – A Kindergarten Focus

What is Self-Regulation?

Zimmerman (2002), describes self-regulation as a “self-directive process by which learners transform their mental abilities into academic skills.” The kindergarten learner faces a myriad of challenges at the beginning of their learning journey. The ability to remain calm and make effective choices will influence how effectively the goal of smooth transition is achieved. Self-regulation involves the deliberate control of impulses and being able to adjust one’s feelings or decisions on how to behave relevant to the situation one is in.

Why Self-Regulation?

Self-regulation is a critical skill that students at the kindergarten level must master in order to have a successful transition into school. The kindergartner is faced with a range of emotions as a result of separation from home. Although many students come to kindergarten from daycare, there is a different dynamic in the daycare environment. As teachers, we have to help them to make good choices and create the environment for them to practice self-regulation skills.

Dr.Stuart Shanker is a professor of Philosophy and Psychology at York University. In this interview, he talks about self-regulation in children and the role it plays in younger learners as they navigate the play-based learning environment.

Dr. Shanker purports that once a student masters self-regulation, he or she is better able to “rise to the challenge of mastering greater skills and concepts”. At the early stage of learning, a solid foundation is important. It is critical to life-long success in other areas not simply limited to the school environment.

The kindergarten program in Ontario uses a play-based model where student learning takes place at play centres that are deliberately set up to encourage meaningful interaction and learning. Many schools have a mixed grouping of junior and senior kindergarten students. In essence, this is somewhat ideal as the senior students help to model appropriate behaviour choices for the junior students.

Hoffman (2012), suggests that play promotes “self-regulation as well as cognitive learning.” This is a concept that teachers at the kindergarten level must embrace. In deciding what centres are to be set up, there must be a deliberate planning of the learning skills that will be demonstrated by the students. The teacher uses a checklist or other observation tools to make notes on each student as they interact with peers. Play-based learning is one of the best ways for a child to develop self-regulation. There are a number of role changes that take place, sharing, taking turns and teamwork. These are fundamental areas that help prepare students for transition into a more structured environment in Grade one and beyond.

Self-regulation is demonstrated when students are able to:

  • Resolve conflicts independently
  • Share materials with peers at a learning centre
  • Share ideas
  • Take turns
  • Respond to signals to tidy up or move to a new learning centre

My next blog post will focus on self-regulation at learning centres. The play-based environment in kindergarten is the ideal environment for students to hone their self-regulation skills. Each classroom setting is unique, however, there are some general principles that can help the teacher to run a successful play-based program.


Hoffman, J. Rethinking Kindergarten. Professionally Speaking, Retrieved from,

TVO Parents. (2012, November 26). Self-Regulation and Children. Retrieved from

Zimmerman, Barry J. “Becoming A Self-Regulated Learner: An Overview.” Theory Into Practice 41.2 (2002): 64-70. Education Source. Web. 11 Feb. 2017.


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