Teaching Impulse Control

November 10th, 2021

by Katrina Brooke

In order to grow up to be productive, responsible adults, kids need to learn impulse control. Here are some fun impulse control activities for kids to teach them this essential life skill!

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There is no denying that impulsive behavior can be the cause of many underlying issues, some minor and some major.

Without teaching your child impulse control and how to be self-aware, you could be allowing them to head down a road of bad behavior that could get so much worse as they get older.

However, impulse control isn’t an innate skill. In other words, kids aren’t born with impulse control – they have to learn it!

But there’s good news! You can implement impulse control strategies that will help a child learn and develop new habits. A few simple impulse control games and impulse control activities for kids will allow you to introduce the concepts into your child’s daily routine in such a fun way that they’ll be working without realizing it.

But how can you implement these games and activities? What sort of strategy should you have? Let’s dive in and discover some sure-thing activities!

What Is Impulse Control In A Child? How Do You Know If There Is A Problem?

When a child has impulse control, they generally display good behavior (at least out in public – the comfort of home is a whole different story). Having impulse control means they can control:

  • their emotions
  • reactions
  • and their actions (ex: if they’re told not to do something, they don’t do it)

Your child might have a problem and need to learn impulse control if they:

  • ignore or willfully disobey instructions (this could also be a sign of a strong-willed kid)
  • frequently lie
  • have adverse reactions to situations
  • struggle with the structure of school
  • find some situations overwhelming

Examples Of Impulse Behavior Displayed By Younger Children 

You might be wondering what it is that will help you identify impulse behavior displayed by your child. Here are some of the things you might notice:

  • Lying
  • Stealing
  • Destroying things like their toys
  • Displaying anger
  • Having outbursts both physically and verbally
  • Struggling in a school environment
  • Overeating
  • Fighting with their peers

Why Is My Kid So Impulsive?

Ok, Mama, here’s the deal: learning impulse control is a normal part of child development.

You haven’t done anything wrong, and a lack of impulse control doesn’t mean your kid is a “bad kid”. Instead, the REAL issue is simply that your child’s brain hasn’t developed the ability to pause on reactions yet.

How Do You Help A Child With Impulse Control?

One of the first impulse control activities for kids to do would be to help raise awareness of impulsive behavior.

For example, if your child is trying to attract your attention by interrupting a conversation you are having, you can then explain to them that you are doing something and why they need to wait their turn. Highlighting impulsive behavior helps to raise awareness and enable you to implement new ones to instill better habits.

Can Impulse Control Be Taught? 

Yes! As a parent, here’s what you need to do:

  • set a good example
  • point out when behavior isn’t appropriate
  • try different games and impulse control activities for kids that can help to teach this important skill through (controlled) experience

Benefits of Impulse Control For Kids

Kids who have impulse skills can:

  • Wait for their turn in games
  • Successfully stand in lines
  • Resist peer pressure
  • Demonstrate problem-solving skills
  • Experience more academic success
  • Think through their answers before giving them
  • Have better critical thinking skills
  • Handle frustration when facing challenges and problem-solving

At What Age Should A Child Learn Self-Control?

Kids can start learning self-control from around 4 years old.

Here are some examples of normal impulse control behaviors in kids by age:

  • Toddlers (2-3 years old) – kids this age are notoriously impulsive and lack patience. While they may not be able to control their behaviors well at this age, you can start teaching them patience in small doses.
  • Preschoolers (4-5 years old) – At this age, kids are exhibiting fewer tantrums and outbursts but they do still happen. Preschoolers are also developing better problem-solving skills.
  • Grade school kids and preteens (6-12 years old) – By now, kids have better control over their body behavior. However, they may still be impulsive verbally.
  • Teens (13 – 19 years old) – These kids believe they’re in full control of their impulses, but when you compare a teen with an adult, it’s evident that they don’t. They’re more influenced by peer pressure, bigger risk-takers, more emotionally volatile, and focus on the short-term benefits instead of the long-term consequences.

As a parent, you need to provide a lot of help and direction for your kids when it comes to emotions and behavior. But as they get older, they’ll rely less on you because you have helped build awareness since they were little.

However, if you haven’t done anything about impulse and self-control before now (or find that you need some direction for boosting skills), you can still implement good impulse control habits.

How Games And Activities Can Help Children Learn Impulse Control

Children love to play games and complete activities. The achievement they feel at the end can match a reward and feel good. Games are also an easier way to help them learn different things.

It is a great strategy to help you get onto the same page as your child with how they are feeling and what they need to do to develop impulse and self-control.

The Best Impulse Control Activities For Kids

You may be wondering what games are good to help teach your children about impriulse control.

If you’re looking to implement some impulse control techniques and strategies for children to try at home try these impulse control activities for kids.

Ask Your Child To Repeat Directions Back To You

Impulse control is all about following instructions (even when your child doesn’t want to)!

So a great way to encourage this is to ask your child to repeat directions back to you. You might want to encourage them to wait for you for ten minutes, so asking them to repeat that back to you reaffirms the behavior.

Set Solid Household Rules

Make clear rules and explain them to your kids as well as the reason for them. If they know the “why”, they’ll be less likely to break them. Also explain your expectations as well as any negative consequences that will result from breaking the rules.

Burn Off Excess Energy

I know from personal experience that making sure that kids who lack impulse control get plenty of exercise helps.

Give them the opportunity to run, jump, climb, roll around, play hopscotch or tag, etc and limit screen time. This will help kids to be more self-disciplined. It’s one of the most effective impulse control activities for kids that helps my son.

Red Light, Green Light

Here’s a classic! I remember playing this in the backyard with my parents, and I also played it with my kids a lot when they were little!

This is a game that doesn’t require any materials, it is a simple action and react sort of game. When you, the parent, say red light. Your child must stop. When you say green light, they can start to move forward until you say red light once more. You can add in different levels of difficulty the more they become accustomed to their actions and responses.

Simon Says 

This is another great game to play with children and requires little to no materials to do it. It is an action and response sort of game.

How to play: As a parent, you might say “Simon says jump on the spot” and your child must jump on the spot. However, if you just ask them to jump on the spot without saying the phrase “Simon says” then they mustn’t do it.

If they do it anyway, they lose. This helps with listening skills and improves self-control in a fun way. My son had a blast with this one, and it’s always been one of his favorite impulse control activities for kids because there’s such an obvious instant reward for listening.


How to play: When playing the game Jenga, you need to be slow, calculated, and strategic when removing a piece when it is your turn. Move too fast and the tower will topple. Forget focusing on the balance and the best piece to move and the tower will topple.

You need self-control and awareness to be able to play the game and potentially become the winner at the end.

Don’t Break The Ice

Much like the game of Jenga, your child needs to be aware of their movements and practice body control when playing “Don’t break the ice.” Using too much force will cause the ice to break and for the game to be over.

Impulse control activities for kids like this one help your child learn to show restraint, self-control, and awareness of their body and the movements they are making.

Freeze Dance 

Again another game that requires no materials, just some music!

How to play: Play some music and ask your child or children to dance. When the music stops, they have to freeze and remain still until the music comes back on. This helps a child to learn impulse control as they try and stay still.

“Don’t Eat The Marshmallow”

How to play: Sit your child down and place a marshmallow in front of them. Then ask them not to eat it just yet because you have to leave the room for ten minutes. You promise that when you return they can have two instead of one and then leave as promised.

It will be hard for your child to overcome temptation but a great way to teach a lesson and practice the skill.

Organized Sports

It doesn’t matter if your young children are good at sports. Playing organized sports are great impulse control activities for kids because they teach basic listening, sharing, and self-restraint skills.

Plus they’re fun and burn off energy!

Label Feelings 

Kids who don’t understand their feelings are more likely to be impulsive. Help them by doing activities where they can label their feelings can help them to become more aware.

Help your child learn to talk to you about their feelings rather than showing you (by acting out) how they feel.

Problem-Solving Activities 

Another great way to teach impulse control is to look at doing activities that involve problem-solving. Here are some ideas of problem-solving impulse control activities for kids:

  • word searches
  • crosswords
  • logic puzzles
  • activity sheets that involve maths or answering clues.

It’s a great way to help a child learn about taking time to learn the answer and not be impulsive which could lead them to be wrong.

Incorporate Impulse Control Activities For Kids In Your Routines

Impulse control is a learned behavior that we, as parents, need to help guide our children. Hopefully, these impulse activities for kids will help you teach this essential life skill to your kids!

Consistently Reward Your Child If They Show Impulse Control 

A great way to help encourage impulse control is to consistently reward your child if they show impulse control. This reaffirms the good behavior and habits that they will be developing, which will encourage them to do it more.

Everybody loves a bit of praise and your kids are no different!

Then try taking up the level of difficulty and practicing even more by making goals and working towards them before receiving a reward!

Remember, It’s Okay To Remind Young Children To Show Restraint 

Be mindful that you need to encourage these behaviors in a positive way so reminding your child that they can show restraint can help you to do that.

The Benefits of Impulse Control Activities For Kids: Final Thoughts

Some kids may seem to be born with natural impulse control while others seem to lack it completely. Just remember, if you have a child who completely lacks impulse control skills, you haven’t done anything wrong and your child isn’t “bad”.

They just need some support to learn a helpful life skill. I know from experience. 😁

So give your impulsive kid an extra squeeze for being the special kiddo they are and then try having fun with one of these impulse control activities for kids. Having fun together while learning something important? WIN-WIN!

Impulse Control Activities For Kids: Fun Practice Ideas


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