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Family Resources

Family Resources

Soon after the Oklahoma City bombing, in 1995, children in a nearby kindergarten started playing dead. Over and over, they toppled towers of blocks and lay motionless on the floor. When their teacher asked them to tell her about what was happening in their play, the students informed her that they had all been killed by terrorists.
The play continued in this vein for some time—smashed towers, splayed-out children—until their teacher asked if they might be interested in building a hospital. “She went in with stethoscopes, masks, and bandages, and helped kids move towards a phase that was focused on care and healing,” says Nancy Carlsson-Paige, a professor emerita at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and an expert on the ways young children process trauma through play.

When asked about school readiness skills, many teachers say children who succeed in kindergarten know when and how to control their impulses. They can follow through when a task is difficult and listen to directions for a few minutes. These skills are linked to self-control. Children can develop them at preschool and at home. Here are a few ways families can help children learn self-control.

Change the rules of a game to make it an opposite game. For example, instead of playing the familiar version of Simon Says, play Simon Doesn’t Say. Explain the new rule in words and actions: “Do the opposite of what Simon asks you to do. If Simon Says ‘Touch your head,’ you should touch your toes.” Be sure to demonstrate how this works. Keep directions simple. Take turns being Simon.