Self-Regulation at Play Centres

Kindergarten sets the stage for a lifetime of learning for the student. A successful journey weighs heavily on the ability of students to self-regulate. Bodrova & Leong (2008), defines self-regulation as “a deep, internal mechanism that enables children as well as adults to engage in mindful, intentional, and thoughtful behaviours”. Strong self-regulation skills ensure that the student can successfully transition to the next stage in their learning journey. Students are faced with many choices as they engage in playful learning and must develop the foundation skills to help them make good choices. The Ontario Full Day Kindergarten program is based on a play-based learning model. This model ensures that students learn in play centres that are deliberately set up to provide a rich, engaging and hands-on experience.

Skills Enhanced at Play Centres

Active learning helps to enhance important skills in student’s development. It builds on the natural curiosity and an innate drive within young children to explore and discover as they grow. These crucial skills are developed and strengthened through play.

  • Social  – students learn to share, make decisions and interact with their peers in a safe and caring way.
  • Emotional – Students can make many emotional connections as they interact with each other. The dramatic play centre gives students an excellent opportunity to assume a number of roles and experience varying emotions as they collaborate.
  • Cognitive – An exercise of the brain happens every time the student engages in an inquiry.  A rich mix of inquiry-based learning provides opportunities for young learners to evaluate, analyse, make judgments or predictions as they explore their environment. A hands-on approach helps them to experience learning in more meaningful ways.
  • Physical – Many activities in play based learning involve the consistent use of small and large muscles in a variety of ways. Eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills are greatly enhanced through activities such as painting, cutting, drawing and sorting items.

Learning Through Play – Self-Regulation in the Drama Centre

The dramatic centre provides a rich resource for skills development in students. This is probably the most popular learning centre in most play-based kindergarten classrooms. In dramatic play, students have a number of opportunities to negotiate roles, make decisions and resolve conflicts.  Watch as students in this clip negotiate their role in the family set up.

How do we help students to make good choices as they interact?

  • Rules of play need to be co-constructed by the teacher and students. It is important for students to understand why a certain behaviour is appropriate or inappropriate.The teacher models what appropriate behaviour looks like so students have a better understanding of what they need to do. Students also need to be made aware of the consequences of making poor choices.
  • Visuals work! In kindergarten, visuals provide a point of reference for students to note when making a decision. They also serve as reminders of what is appropriate as they interact. When choosing visuals, be sure to use pictures that reflect the make up of the classroom. Students will definitely make better connections.classroom-rules
  • Give students opportunities to implement their own conflict resolution strategies. Problems need to be peacefully resolved for students to learn from the experience. The preparation stage for setting up a play-based program should include reading stories of how conflicts are solved and demonstrating or modelling this all-important skill for young learners.

Conflicts are always best avoided, however, in the kindergarten classroom where learning is play-based, conflicts are bound to occur. Students who are learning to self-regulate need to consistently learn how to solve conflicts. As a rule of thumb, it is always best to handle the conflicts in the moment, so the student can better understand and learn from the total experience.

To strengthen self-regulation skills, students need to be given ample opportunities to communicate and collaborate in various settings. Students learn best by doing, therefore, the onus is on the teacher to create the environment for them to get to work! Without strong self-regulation skills, students have great difficulty as they progress to the next stage of learning.  The student that can self-regulate makes good choices, are better problem solvers and have a solid base for lifelong learning.


Bodrova E. & Leong D., (2008). Developing Self-Regulation in Kindergarten. Retrieved from

Miller S. Ages and Stages-Learning to Resolve Conflicts, Scholastic Early Childhood Today. Retrieved from

Phillips N. Image Credit 2014

Tower Hill School. (2013, October 2) Children Learn Through Play in Kindergarten. retrieved from



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