5 Ways of Managing Impulse Control Through Play

Has your child ever made a beeline for an electrical outlet you’ve repeatedly told them not to touch? Have they ever stuck their finger through the grilles and into the turning blades of your standing fan, or hit another kid over a small sharing hiccup? Have you ever caught your little one doing something, literally, immediately after you told them not to?

Welcome to the world of, Impulse Control.

NeuroScience Research has shown that, Childhood Self-Control is actually twice as important as Intelligence, when it comes to predicting Academic Achievement in the classroom. This is because children who possess well-developed self-control skills exhibit enhanced focus, goal-setting abilities, effective decision-making, emotion regulation, and resilience. And these qualities form a solid foundation for academic success, enabling students to navigate challenges, persevere, and optimize their learning potential.

The good news is that Impulse Control can be managed, encouraged, and developed over time*, regardless of the nature and temperamant of your child; and the Better news is, these self-regulation skills doesn’t always have to be hard-instilled or disciplined into them. In fact, alot of the time, they are best developed alongside a whole lot of joy.


Through Play, of course.


*It is important to note that Self Control only starts developing in children between 3.5 – 4 years of age. If your child is below 3 and exhibiting lack of self-control, please do not fret! It is perfectly normal during those first three years to act on immediate desires instead of logic or reason. You can guide them from wrong to right of course, but also do not worry because their brains are only beginning to find their way to this cognitive process, and they just haven’t reached this milestone yet. 

1. Get Active.

Everyone – children and adults alike- need physical exercise to expend energy. Restlessness usually sets in when we have too much pent-up energy in us, which can lead to impulsive behaviors as a way of releasing that energy. By engaging in healthy Active Play, children can channel their energy in a positive, productive, and controlled manner, reducing the likelihood of impulsive behaviors.

2. Play Games Intentionally Designed for Managing Impulse Control.

You know what are the best kind of games for managing Impulse Control?

Speed/Reaction Games.

While most of these games have clear win/lose rules, they can usually be further customized to penalize for wrong answers. This futher ups the focus requirement and ensures that your child gives themselves enough time to observe and think with quality – even as instinct is gravitating them towards speed and impulse.

Alternatively, Memory Games are also a good consideration; research from Stanford University and Maastricht University in the Netherlands have credibly linked improved impulse control to short-term memory training.

3. Develop a Reward Chart System.

Kids need opportunities to practice delaying gratification, and having a Reward Chart System in place is an extremely effective and fun way of doing this. Reward your child’s good behavior with tokens; and allow these tokens to be ‘saved up’ and exchanged for bigger rewards. Saving is an excellent form of practising delayed gratification; and is an essential life skill that will help them learn to resist temptations that may lead to impulsive choices.

4. Invest In A Good Fidget Toy.

Self-Regulation is the very nature of Fidget Toys, which helps kids experience the impulse for movement without negatively manifesting itself as a ‘misbehavior’.

If your child is primarily struggling with being physically impulsive, a Fidget Toy may prove particularly useful as it instinctively encourages repetitive motions and holds attention span.

5. Learn to Be Bored

The concept of allowing kids to experience boredom might seem counter-intuitive in a world where entertainment and stimulation are readily available. However, learning to be bored is actually a very valuable life skill and does a lot for our thinking processes

When we’re not constantly excited or engrossed, we have to learn to be comfortable with calm and quiet in a healthy way. We also learn to slow down, listen to our own thoughts, build on our imaginations, and create – all in the quiet of our own minds. Not only that, it also sparks curiosity and exploration, and motivates them to find activities and engage in self-directed play without relying on external sources of entertainment. This cultivates a sense of independence, resourcefulness, and self-reliance, as children learn to entertain themselves and develop their own interests.