How to Teach Kids Impulse Control | The OT Toolbox

How to Teach Kids Impulse Control

Kids with executive functioning skill challenges may suffer from impulse control difficulties.  The strategies indicated in this post are guides to help teach kids impulse control for improved attention, self-regulation, and learning in the classroom.  

You might know of a child who just can't help themselves in the classroom. They are the ones who are speaking out, interrupting, jumping up from their seat, and distracting their classmates.  There are underlying reason behind these behaviors and it is important to consider those causes for impulse-related behaviors.  It may be there are unmet sensory needs, difficulty with self-regulation, trouble expressing oneself, emotional causes, or other underlying areas.  



More than likely, the kids that need help with impulse control are being addressed in some way by the child's teacher or team in one way or several. But if impulses are something that need addressed, try the impulse control strategies outlined below.

You'll be interested in all of our executive functioning skill activities.

Use these strategies to teach kids impulse control in the classroom for better learning, focus, attention, and self-control.



Impulse control strategies for Kids


Parents, teachers, and therapists can use these strategies in different ways.  Consider that every child is unique and what works for one child may not work for another.  Likewise, it is very important to specifically design a strategy based on individualized assessment of the child.


Why is it difficult for kids to manage their impulses?


Children develop controlled impulses as part of their overall development.  The very young child does not have these skills.  In fact, there are those of us who have difficulty refraining from a second cookie as adults.  Impulse control requires will power, delayed gratification, and self-control.  For the child who struggles with development, sensory processing, attention, physical limitations, cognitive delays, or social impairments, the ability to control ones impulses is very difficult.  These individuals are cognitively and automatically focused on the underlying needs.  When other needs such as sensory or balance are the primary focus, it can be quite difficult to refrain from impulses.


Impulses seen in the classroom:

Speaking out
Interrupting classmates
Quitting games
Shoving in lines
Cutting in front of others
Jumping up from seat
Asking questions about irrelevant topics
Physical impulses
Hyperactive behavior
Hypo-active behavior
Personal boundary issues



How to teach kids impulse control:


Impulse control journal
Goal tracker
Reduce clutter
Make goals
Break big tasks or projects into smaller steps
Make a schedule (picture-based or list)
Social stories
Act out situations beforehand
Count to three before answering/responding
Self-rewards
Self-talk
Reduce time to complete tasks
Increase time to complete tasks
Think through and predict social interactions before going into a situation
Control buddy
Ask for help
Habit tracker
Use a strategy checklist
Carry a goal list
Positive thought notebook

Executive functions all require the ability to pay attention.  Read about the attention and executive functioning skill connection and the impact of attention on each of the executive functioning skills that children require and use every day.


Impulse control issues in the classroom and strategies to help


Looking for more ways to address executive functioning needs?  Try these strategies to help with organizationattention, or task initiation.


Use these strategies to teach kids impulse control in the classroom for better learning, focus, attention, and self-control.

This free printable packet may also be of use if you are struggling to address issues with impulse control in kids. You'll also receive a short email series loaded with information on impulse control and resources and strategies that can really help.

More tools for addressing attention needs in kids





When saying "calm down" just isn't enough...

When a child is easily "triggered" and seems to melt down at any sign of loud noises or excitement...

When you need help or a starting point to teach kids self-regulation strategies...

When you are struggling to motivate or redirect a child without causing a meltdown...

When you're struggling to help kids explore their emotions, develop self-regulation and coping skills, manage and reflect on their emotions, identify their emotions, and more as they grow...

A one-stop shop of sensory resources and tools is the way to go. The Super Sensory Bundleis back but only for a few more days. It's got games, activites, tools, and resources for therapists, teachers, parents, and anyone working with kids. 

In the bundle, you'll find 40+ sensory products created by experienced therapists and professionals and 450+ printable bonus resource sheets. These can all be downloaded and used over and over again as part of your therapy toolbox when addressing fine motor skills, executive functioning, sensory processing needs, self-regulation and emotional regulation, gross motor skills, and more. Get the Super Sensory Bundle while it's still available. 


There are so many strategies to address attention in kids and activities that can help address attention needs. One tactic that can be a big help is analyzing precursors to behaviors related to attention and addressing underlying needs. 

The Attention and Sensory Workbook can be a way to do just that. 

The Attention and Sensory Workbook is a free printable resource for parents, teachers, and therapists. It is a printable workbook and includes so much information on the connection between attention and sensory needs. 

Here's what you can find in the Attention and Sensory Workbook

  • Includes information on boosting attention through the senses
  • Discusses how sensory and learning are connected
  • Provides movement and sensory motor activity ideas
  • Includes workbook pages for creating movement and sensory strategies to improve attention


little more about the Attention and Sensory Workbook: 


Sensory processing is the ability to register, screen, organize, and interpret information from our senses and the environment. This process allows us to filter out some unnecessary information so that we can attend to what is important. Kids with sensory challenges often time have difficulty with attention as a result.

It’s been found that there is a co-morbidity of 40-60% of ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder. This workbook is an actionable guide to help teachers, therapists, and parents to help kids boost attention and focus in the classroom by mastering sensory processing needs. 

You will find information on the sensory system and how it impacts attention and learning. There are step-by-step strategies for improving focus, and sensory-based tips and tricks that will benefit the whole classroom.

The workbook provides tactics to address attention and sensory processing as a combined strategy and overall function. There are charts for activities, forms for assessment of impact, workbook pages for accommodations, and sensory strategy forms.

Grab the Attention and Sensory Workbook by clicking HERE or on the image below.

Attention and sensory workbook activities for improving attention in kids