14 Best Games to Teach Young Kids Impulse Control

Updated: Apr 9, 2019

Need some ideas on how to help your child learn impulse control? Look no further as we have gathered some of the best games that will certainly help them build the skills to demonstrate impulse control.

One of the most common struggles for young kids is the ability to demonstrate impulse control. For young kids, the skill to stop and think through their actions can be very difficult, especially when they might be dealing with strong emotions. Often times, young kids who have difficultly with impulse control struggle with playing with others peers.

The good news is however, that impulse control is a skill that can be strengthened and developed with practice. For young kids, games are sometimes the most effective intervention for helping them acquire the skill to stop and think about their actions before reacting impulsively. Games are a great way to keep young kids engaged and entertain while also helping them build the necessary skills to play and work with others. Below are some of our favorite games to play with kids to help them develop impulse control.

1. The Spoon Race This can be a very competitive game and played with different objects resting on the spoon. To begin this game,  ask players to put the handle of their spoon in their mouth and place a marble on the other end. The goal of this game, is for players to get from one end of the room ( start line) to the other end of the room (finish line) without losing their marble on the spoon. To practice impulse control, students must focus on taking their time, and not rushing through it or else possibly losing their marble.

2. Dog Bone: This is a great group game to play with kids, which requires however a good size room to most effective. The way this game works, is one player sits in a chair, with their back towards the rest of the group about 20-30 feet away. Depending on how many kids are playing, you will want to set up “safe spots” around the room with either chairs or hula hoops. The objective of this game is to be the first player to pick up the “dog bone” which will sit right behind the player sitting up front. However, if the player sitting up front barks, and you are not in a “safe spot” you are eliminated from the game. This game is great at teaching kids, to carefully move their way to the “done bone” instead of just impulsively sprinting after it which they typically do the first couple rounds.

3. Don’t Go Bananas -  This is a enjoyable and educational game where kids work to create four stacks (different colors) of cards in numerical order (1-3) in front of them. Each time that a student places a card in one of their stacks they must answer the question presented on it. To assist kids with impulse control, this game utilizes the ABCD method of cognitive behavioral therapy. The goal of this game is to help kids understand how their thoughts, feelings and behaviors are connected with different consequences. It is a great game that encourages kids to be more reflective and self-aware.

4. Marshmallow Challenge: This game we created based off of the famous marshmallow test done many years ago with young kids. This game is more of a challenge however can always be presented as a game to the kids. In order for this game to improve your kid’s impulse control you will want to bake or place on a table some of your kid’s favorite foods. Then, challenge them to see how long they can go without touching or eating the food on the table. If your kids are struggling with controlling their impulse, you can always attach a little reward to it if they are able to reach a agreed upon goal.

5. Smack It! - this is a very simple game to learn and is extremely easy to teach kids. The game works by players putting down cards that mostly have numbers on them in the center pile. As players put cards down, they are waiting for someone to place the “smack it” card in the center pile. As soon as someone puts down the “smack it” card, all the players race to slap it as soon as possible. the first one to smack it receives the cards in the pile. This game is great for practicing impulse control for kids because often times they want to slap the center pile anytime they think the “smack it” card is going be next. It usually takes some time before kids start to stop and wait until they actually see the “smack it” card in the center before slapping it.

6. Simon says: This is an interesting game to be played by everyone in the family; this game teaches kids how to be attentive and patient. Simon Says has pretty many straightforward procedures that are easily understood. Someone will be selected to be “Simon” first, then all other kids are to do anything “Simon says” right before he announces his next command, for example, if Simon Says draw a table and all children draw the table except one or two kids that couldn’t draw the table before “Simon” gives the next command will be out. In the end, the last kid standing becomes the next “Simon.”

7. Swimming towards Self-Control - this game is played similar to the traditional Go Fish, however the difference being that it presents different questions that kids must answer before accepting a card from another player. It does not really focus on gaining matches like Go Fish rather it concentrates more on getting kids to talk about scenarios and ways to handle different situations. Throughout the game, it encourages kids to “stop ad think” when presented difficult moments.

8. Dare to Stare - This game can be very challenging for students who might be easily distracted. It starts with two players sitting or standing face to face making complete eye contact with each other. The goal of this game is to be the player to keep eye contact the longest without blinking or staring somewhere else. Kids really enjoy the challenge of trying to keep eye contact while also trying to provide distractions to the other player. This game is a great impulse game as kids often times feel the temptation to look away and it forces them to use their skills to remain focused.  

9. Franklin Learning Impulse Control Game - If you are looking for a game to directly teach kids strategies on how to better control their impulses this game could be a great fit. This game is ideal for 2-6 players, aging between 8 and 14. In this game, players pick up cards with questions and scenarios on them, while moving throughout the board. The goal of this game is to help students develop seven skills that will improve their impulse control.

10. Red Light Green Light: This game is an outdoor classic. There is so many skills that can be practiced while playing especially around impulse control. Often times, kids want to keep running towards the finish line, however this game teaches them that when they hear “red light”, they must stop and if they fail to listen to the command they are out. In addition, this game teaches kids that they must wait and control their impulses to run until they hear the person who is “it” say “green light”.

11. Remote Control Impulse Control Game - This is an informative card game that can be very insightful for kids. This game works on teaching three main skills that will help them with controlling their impulsivity. Throughout the game, kids work on incorporating the three skills once they are given a variety of different scenarios. What is nice about this game is that it teaches kids exactly what skills they would need in order to demonstrate impulse control.

12. Freeze Dance: This game is great to get kids energized with music and help them control their emotions. During this game, students dance to music and when it stops, kids must freeze. This game is great with helping kids build their attention skills as well as ability to control their impulses to keep moving even after the music has stopped.

13. Stop, Relax and Think - This is more of a self-reflective game which focuses on players moving around he board while picking up either a feeling, relaxing, or thinking card. During the game, players can also pick up a stop card which asks that player to perform an action until the person next to them says "stop" and if they are able to do so they receive a red token. This is another therapeutic games that focuses on helping kids think through different situations and providing different relaxation skills they can use to keep their bodies calm.

14. Keep the Rhythm: This is a enjoyable game for music teachers or those who like to create their own beats. The objective of this game for kids is to repeat back the same rhythmic beat that the leader creates. The fun part of this game is that you can do it with instruments or simply clapping, stomping and what not. The goal of this game is to help kids pay attention to the leader’s beat, stay focused on it, and not impulsively begin to create their own.

Conclusion: In order for young kids to develop impulse control they need time to practice. When given opportunities to strengthen their ability to stop and think, the more likely they will be able to demonstrate impulse control. By utilizing these games in a supportive environment, kids will begin to improve in this skill area and will do much better at playing with their peers. If you have other fun impulse games that you have played successfully with kids feel free to share in the comments section.

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