Effective Practice Guides

Cognitive Self-Regulation: Know

Goals for Infants and Toddlers

  • IT-ATL 3. Child maintains focus and sustains attention with support.
  • IT-ATL 4. Child develops the ability to show persistence in actions and behavior.
  • IT-ATL 5. Child demonstrates the ability to be flexible in actions and behavior.

Teaching Practices


Model flexibility and persistence.
"Whoops," says Mr. Parsons while setting up for lunch in her family child care home. "I knocked the cups on the floor. Now they are dirty. I'm glad we have more cups. Abena, can you please help me carry these dirty ones to the sink?"

Promote sustained joint attention with children. Joint attention is when an adult and child both pay attention to an object or action. It happens when the adult or child alerts each other to an object or action by looking, pointing, or other non-verbal or verbal means.
"Bonjour, Phillipe. Li nan tèlman bèl yo wè ou jodi a." Ms. Eaton does not know many words in Haitian Creole, but she has learned enough to welcome Phillipe, 5 months, and his family, recent arrivals from Haiti, to the classroom. Today when she greets Phillipe in his home language, he looks at her face, eyes opened wide. Ms. Eaton smiles and says, "Yes, hello, I see you looking at me. You heard me speak your language!" Phillipe babbles and shifts his gaze from her face. Ms. Eaton repeats the greeting in Haitian Creole. Phillipe looks back at her, and Ms. Eaton says, "You looked away, now you're looking at me again. Hello, Phillipe!" Phillipe babbles and Ms. Eaton repeats his sounds. Phillipe babbles again and looks toward the bin where balls and rattles are kept. Ms. Eaton looks at the bin and says, "You're looking at the bin where your favorite shaker is. Let's go get it so you can shake it and make sounds."


Follow a predictable schedule so children gain a general idea of what will happen at different times of the day. Make sure to announce and help children manage transitions.
Ms. Ballou, a home visitor, says to Ms. Perry, mother of twin 2-year-olds Jo-Anne and Jeremy, "Tell me about bedtime." "Well," answers Ms. Perry, "Every day is different. Sometimes they brush their teeth before reading books and other times they get completely ready for bed and then we do stories. It's not easy to get two toddlers to settle down." Ms. Ballou listens closely and then says, "It's great that you find time for reading every day. Toddlers thrive on order and predictability. They find it easier to settle into sleep when their routine is the same every night. Let's talk about how you can establish a nightly routine that involves books and stories for Jo-Anne and Jeremy."

Provide equipment, materials, and time for children to play age-appropriate game.
The children in Ms. Diamond’s family child care home range from 6 months to almost 3 years old. They all like playing with balls. And Ms. Diamond has a variety of balls for children to use. Ms. Diamond plays roll-the-squishy-ball with the youngest, Kiki. Squishy balls are easier for Kiki to grasp and are less likely to roll away from her. The toddlers enjoy chasing the rubber playground balls she kicks to them and the 2-year-olds like to practice their throwing and kicking skills. Ms. Diamond knows that when she supports children’s play and provides age-appropriate materials, the children are more likely to sustain attention in what they’re doing. They are also more likely to persist when there are challenges, such as getting a foot to connect with a ball when trying to kick it.


Notice, support, and respond to children's interests flexibly.
When baby Michael becomes interested in the birds at the feeder, family child care provider, Ms. Engel, moves the changing table next to a window. Now, while Michael is getting a clean diaper, he and Ms. Engel pay attention to and talk about the birds, "There are three robins on the feeder today, Michael," she says. He responds, "Buhd."

Express confidence in a child's ability to successfully accomplish a goal or task.
Home visitor, Ms. Richards, observes Ana, 34 months, and her mother, Ms. Torres, as they participate in making whole wheat muffins during a group socialization activity. Ms. Richards comments to Ms. Torres, "I noticed Anna holding the egg carefully when she cracked it. Then she carefully pulled the egg shell apart to get the egg in the bowl. And then I saw her smile." Ms. Torres said, "Yes, I let her help me when we make huevos rancheros. She's in charge of cracking the eggs. I tell her that she's a good cook."

Goals for Preschoolers

  • P-ATL 5. Child demonstrates an increasing ability to control impulses.
  • P-ATL 6. Child maintains focus and sustains attention with minimal adult support.
  • P-ATL 7. Child persists in tasks.
  • P-ATL 8. Child holds information in mind and manipulates it to perform tasks.
  • P-ATL 9. Child demonstrates flexibility in thinking and behavior.

Teaching Practices


Offer new props or assume a role to help children engage in high-level imaginary play.
After a baking activity in the older 4-year-olds and young 5-year-olds class, Ms. Healy notices the children making loaves of bread with playdough. She adds baking props to the dramatic play area. Soon, the children discover the pie tins, chef hats, pot holders, rolling pins, and cookie cutters. They spend several days baking treats. Ms. Healy mentions, "These baked goods are so delicious you could serve them in a café." The following day, the children set up a coffee shop.

Introduce and continue an ongoing story so children can practice using their working memory to recall the characters and their actions.
After lunch, the children have gathered for story time. "Who remembers what Bruno and Ana discovered yesterday?" asks Ms. Flynn. "Una llave mágica," say several children in unison. "And what will the magic key open?" "We don't know yet," laughs Lucia. "Well, let's find out," says Ms. Flynn. The children all lean forward so they can hear her every word.


Provide developmentally appropriate challenges so children can learn to persist and focus on achieving goals.
"Today is the day we are going to build an obstacle course," says Ms. Rigas, a home visitor, to Ms. Molina, Peter's mother. "Yes!," says Ms. Molina. "I talked with Peter about it, like you suggested. He wants to use couch pillows and some boxes we have in our storage unit." "That sounds like a great start," says. Ms. Rigas. "The three of us can make a course and then Peter can crawl under, over, and around the objects." Peter says "Pool noodles." "Pool noodles?" says Ms. Rigas. "I wonder what we could do with them. I bet they would be great for jumping over, and Peter could practice keeping his balance when he lands. That's a new skill for him."

Introduce group games and offer board games that allow children to master rules, wait for a turn, and try different options to succeed.
At a recent arts festival, Ms. King took some photos of the various activities. She printed and laminated the photos on small index cards to create a matching game for the classroom. The children match each photo to one that goes with it. Mia shouts, "I know where the other hoop dancer is! She's right here in the corner!"


Notice and comment on a child's use of impulse control.
Carrie and Portia, both 4, place their hands on the wagon at almost the same time. Ms. Kay waits to see what happens next. Carrie lifts her arm, as if she is going to hit Portia. Instead, Carrie lets go of the wagon and says, "You can have it. You were here first." Portia says, "Thanks," then wheels the wagon away. Ms. Kay walks over to Carrie, kneels beside her, and says, "I saw you let Portia have the wagon. How did you stop yourself from hitting?" Carrie smiles and says, "I just took a deep breath and then let go."

Give children enough time to succeed at their own pace.
While baby Juana naps in Ms. Rice's family child care home, the rest of the children are making applesauce. They use the bruised apples brought back from their trip to the orchard where their families work. Jonas, 4-and-a-half, is turning the handle on the food mill slowly and steadily. Ms. Rice says, "Take your time, Jonas. You are working hard to get the seeds and skin out of our sauce."

Topic:School Readiness

Resource Type: Article

Last Updated: June 5, 2018