Model self-regulation skills and engage in sensitive responsive practices

Modelling is one of the most powerful teaching tools we can employ. It is even more powerful when paired with communication. Much of what children learn as they develop is influenced by observing the behaviours of influential adults (and other children). The development of self-regulation is no exception. In order to support young children’s self-regulation we must first reflect on our own behaviours. One of the ways we can teach self-regulation skills is by modelling appropriate interactions with children. Adult-child interactions are one of the most significant determinants of children’s outcomes. Interactions characterised by sensitive and responsive educator practices are linked to enhanced social and emotional development for children.

Scenario: As the children finish lunch they join a small group activity where an educator is supporting a game of ‘Duck, Duck, Goose’. As Sienna approaches the group she asks if she can join in too. Some of the children reply that there is no room and then continue playing. Pausing the game the educator comments, “I can see our friend Sienna would like to join in our game, but there is no room in our circle. I’m going to shuffle back to make some room for her. Why don’t you come sit next to me Sienna?”


Utilise children’s play to model prosocial behaviours. Engaging in children’s pretend play can offer opportunities to model behaviours that may not be typical of the ECEC context. This can involve asking if you can join in play, making adjustments so that others may join in play, and demonstrating turn-taking. Support problem solving and resolution when conflicts arise around roles and responsibilities.

Where possible, pair modelling with communication. Verbalising one’s thought process can provide children with an insight in to cognitive processes including problem solving and dealing with strong emotions. For example, while moving equipment to create space for another child, an educator might at the same time say ‘I’m just going to move the dolly’s bed across, so Jodie can come in to play as well.’

Show children that it is perfectly fine to make mistakes. Model coping with disappointment and making mistakes. For example: skipping words while reading, holding the book upside down or sorting the blocks incorrectly. Provide children with opportunities to correct your mistakes.

Reflect on your own self-regulation and how this may influence the classroom climate. Stressors in our work and personal lives can have a negative effect on our capacity to self-regulate. When this occurs, it is important to recognise the “red-flags” and take action to prevent this impacting on practices. When personal strategies don’t work (e.g., pausing, deep breathing, positive self-talk), communicate with your fellow staff members so that they may offer assistance (e.g., helping children to resolve a conflict or soothing a child who has become distressed).

Links to the Early Years Learning Framework

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

  • Intentional teaching (Practice 4)
  • Children transfer and adapt what they have learned from one context to another (Outcome 4.3)