Monitor children’s development and use this to shape learning environments and experiences

Intentional teaching strategies are important for the development of self-regulation. Intentional teaching depends on e ective assessment. To best support children’s emerging self-regulation we need to develop a better understanding of where children are up to. Think of the child who is able to direct their attention and responds to requests, but dissolves into tears when things don’t go according to plan. Understanding more about children’s self-regulatory capabilities is an important rst step in providing rich learning environments.

Scenario: An educator plays a memory card game with a group of four 3-year old children, and during the game one child stood out in particular. The child had trouble sitting still throughout the game, was distractible, and required a lot of prompting about when it was their turn and what to do next. At the same time, when the child was focused on the activity they were planful, considered and highly engaged. So much so that, when another child got a pair, they got frustrated and turned away from the game. That said, after about 15 seconds the child turned back to the game and happily re-engaged. The educator wonders: What does this tell me about the child’s self-regulation? And what do I do next to help the child develop in areas of opportunity and extend them in areas of strength?


Use observational tools/strategies as formative assessment (Assessment for Learning). While educators are used to observing children to learn about their developmental progress and needs, it is easier to extract this information in some areas than others. For instance, when matching digits, numbers and quantities, there are clear ways to capture a child’s progress in this area and some clear strategies and activities to help support future learning. But what about the scenario above: What does this tell us about the child’s developing self-regulation and what are some well-suited next steps? For self-regulation, we have developed a PRSIST formative assessment tool to help structure these observations of children, and provide readily actionable information about possible next steps (through the practices and child activities in this program).

Focus not only on behavioural self-regulation (e.g., fidgeting, lashing out, waiting for a turn, breaking rules), but also cognitive and social-emotional areas of self-regulation. Cognitive aspects of self-regulation include paying and sustaining attention, resisting distraction, becoming and remaining engaged (e.g., involved, invested) in an activity, and being thoughtful and planful before acting. Social and emotional aspects of self-regulation include following social conventions (e.g., turn-taking in speech and behaviour, being helpful), being willing to try despite the risk of being wrong, controlling emotional impulses and, where emotions do overwhelm, being able to recover from them. Each of these areas – cognitive, behavioural and social-emotional – requires somewhat different approaches and strategies. Ensure that children’s experiences are supportive of each of these areas of self-regulation.

Links to the Early Years Learning Framework

This principle and associated practices are referenced in the following sources of evidence in the EYLF:

  • Ongoing learning and reflective practice (Principle 5)
  • Responsiveness to children (Practice 2)
  • Children are confident, involved learners (Outcome 4)