Our district has adopted the Tools of the Mind preschool program. This research-based curriculum has the NJ Preschool Teaching and Learning Standards embedded in planned activities with opportunities for children to develop and discover their strengths as a student. At the forefront, the program allows students to develop their working memory, self-regulation, dramatic play and cooperative learning.
Please visit the Tools of the Mind website for more information:
What can I do at home to support the Tools of the Mind Curriculum?
- Promote Self-talk or Private Speech
- Support Make-believe Play and Dramatization
- Model How You Think, Plan and Regulate Your Behavior
- Support Child Planning and Include Children in Decision Making
- Support the Development of Executive Functions
- Establish Routines
- Leverage Planning, Anticipation & Rules
- Play Games and Activities that Support the Development of Self-regulation and Executive Functions
What can I do at home to support the Tools of the Mind Curriculum?
If your child is enrolled in a Tools of the Mind program, you may receive newsletters describing activities used in the classroom to support self-regulation and executive functions, as well as suggestions for how you can foster self-regulation and executive functions at home. Here are some strategies to get you started:
Promote Self-talk or Private Speech
We talk to ourselves, silently or out loud, to remember information like phone numbers or directions and regulate our behavior, repeating instructions to ourselves. Children need to do the same thing, only they can’t yet do it silently. Supporting children’s self-talk is a way to support their development and learning how to learn. With very young children, you can have them tell a friend, a stuffed animal, or say something out loud to help themselves remember. With a 5-year-old, you can tell her that if she repeats something to herself, it will help her remember.
Support Make-believe Play and Dramatization
The best way for preschool and kindergarten children to practice self-regulatory behaviors is to engage in mature make-believe play. Whether or not your child is fortunate enough to have playmates of different ages, your role in supporting this type of play remains critical. Today’s culture of childhood is far less “play-friendly” than in the past, when children had multiple opportunities to acquire mature make-believe play skills. Although in the past, parents often did not actively teach their children how to engage in make-believe play, and some children developed these skills on their own, today, children need our support.This change requires increased attention to supporting make-believe play, both in school and at home. Parents, therefore, need to act as “play mentors,” modeling various components of make-believe play for their children. This might involve showing children how to use an everyday household object in a pretend way or how to change your voice when speaking for a pretend character. As children’s make-believe play skills grow, parents can play more supporting roles, such as playing “customer” while their child plays “hairdresser,” or “patient” while their child plays “doctor. You can also visit our Amazon store to see examples of strong props for make-believe play and inspiration.
Model How You Think, Plan and Regulate Your Behavior
To support the development of self-regulation at home, parents first have to make sure that they model their own behavior in intentional ways. For example, demonstrating how you make a shopping list before going to the supermarket, or how you use a calendar to keep track of doctor’s appointments or soccer practice, will help your children understand what intentional, deliberate behavior, using strategies to plan and remember, look like.
Support Child Planning and Include Children in Decision-making
At school, your child makes a plan before he or she plays (in PreK) or engages in learning activities (K). Planning can happen at home, too. It’s important that the plan truly be your child’s––but you can guide your child so that a plan is reasonable. For example, before going to the zoo, your child can draw pictures or list the animals she wants to see first.
Your child will have a much easier time doing chores or going to bed when she decides what she will do (or when or how she will do it). For example, instead of telling your child it’s bedtime, you can have the child set up an alarm clock or timer for a few minutes before bedtime. When the alarm goes off your child, will know that it is time to go to bed and will even remind you!
Older children benefit from participating in your planning, adding items to a shopping list, or marking their personal events on a calendar.
Support the Development of Executive Functions
An environment that is free of distractions is another way of supporting self-regulation and executive functions at home. It’s hard for children to get in the habit of concentrating on an activity for a long time when multiple distractions are present. Among these “repeat offenders” are TV sets that are always on, as well computer games and gaming devices which are best used intentionally and in moderation.
Parents can encourage children to practice self-regulation and executive functions at home by establishing routines. For example, they can help their child to set an alarm clock that will ring when it is time to go to bed, so the child can “regulate” his or her own bedtime. Now it’s the child, not the parent, saying, “It’s time.” Self-regulation routines work when it comes to television viewing, too. Planning together what to watch on TV and setting a reminder about the time a particular show is on, saying things like, “When the small hand on the clock is all the way down and the long hand is touching the sticker, we will watch your show.”
Leverage Planning, Anticipation & Rules
It’s easier to control the behavior of toddlers and young preschoolers when they know what to expect in a new situation. This helps children learn to anticipate and plan ahead. A typical situation in which parents can do this is when they go to the grocery store. You can get your child to remind you of the ‘rules’ for the grocery store before going, and help the child plan what you’ll be shopping for (and what you won’t be buying in this visit.) You can tell your child in advance, “We’re going shopping, and are going to buy sweet fruit today, but we are not going to buy candy.” Once in the store, parents can make sure that their child remembers the rule by asking him, “Do you remember what we said about candy today?” If the child repeats what her parents told her earlier, she can use the rule to guide her own behavior internally. If necessary, parents can keep reminding the child and asking her to remember the rule.
Play Games and Activities that Support the Development of Self-regulation and Executive Functions
A good way to have children practice physical self-regulation and executive functions is to involve them in “stop and go” or “freeze” games, in which children stop and start different actions, as directed by the leader. Parents can play these games with their children on the playground or while they are waiting in line at a restaurant or in the supermarket. Another type of game that gives children practice in self-regulation and helps develop executive functions skills, is a game in which children need to pay attention to a specific attribute, while ignoring other attributes. For example, when riding in a car, parents can ask children to clap when they see a red car. The game can be made more challenging if there is more than one rule (i.e., clap when you see a red car and snap when you see a blue car).