This stop and think activity is just that: a resource to help kids stop and think! Getting kids to stop and think is a social emotional skill that is needed for self-regulation and emotional intelligence. I love to use these printable executive function worksheets to teach impulse control skills to children.
Stop and Think Activities
These stop and think worksheets are activity based, meaning you can print them off and use them again and again within games, functional tasks, classroom learning activities and everyday daily occupations.
These worksheets can be used in collaboration with Zones of Regulation activities and strategies to help kids with emotional and behavioral regulation.
Included in the Stop and Think worksheets are several pages of resources for teaching children the valuable self-regulation skill of stopping what they are doing and thinking before acting out impulsively. The free worksheet packet includes:
- Impulse Control Red Flags
- Stop and Think Questions for Kids
- Stop and Think Cards
- Tools to Stop and Think
- Daily Reward Chart
When to stop and think
As we know, executive functioning skills do not fully develop until early adulthood. This is because the cognitive functioning center of the brain in the frontal lobe continues to develop into the twenties. You can probably think about specific incidents during your young adult years where impulse control, prioritization, planning, inhibition, and other executive functioning skills were not at their prime. You may have made some inappropriate or unwise decisions during those years.
Our children are developing these skills and won’t fully be developed until much later, so it is natural to see issues with impulsivity, foresight, cognitive flexibility and other skills that are inappropriate. To help children develop these skills on an age-appropriate level, however allows kids to have the working memory for classroom lessons, the impulse control for safety and homework completion, and the self-monitoring skills to not interrupt. All of these skills and abilities take practice, modeling from adults, and repetition.
When children are given opportunities to practice stopping and thinking before their actions, they have that chance to develop these skills effectively participate in occupations such as learning, self-care, social participation, and within safe environment.
Some examples of red flags for when these skills can be addressed include the following:
- Speaks out or blurts out answers
- Interrupts others
- Quits or gives up on tasks, assignments, games, etc.
- Shoves in lines
- Cuts in front of others while waiting in lines
- Jumps up from seat
- Asks questions about irrelevant topics
- Shows physical impulses
- Hyperactive behavior
- Hypo-active behavior
- Jumps to conclusions
- Reacts strongly to criticisms
- Gets sidetracked by strong emotions
- Personal boundary issues
- Jumps from one task to another
- Easily distracted
The Stop and Think worksheets includes these examples, as well as others. This page in the free packet can be a teaching list for children to see when they might apply the ability to stop and think before they act.
Stop and Think Questions for Kids
Also included in the worksheet set are stop and think questions. Children can use them within a situation, activity, game, or event to pause and answer the questions given the situation in which they find themselves.
There is space to answer the questions in a blank writing area, and you can cut out the questions as a visual model for future situations. Sometimes having that visual prompt listing out the questions is a good prompt for children, teens, and young adults. These stop and think questions can even be useful for adults to address mindfulness, mindset, emotional regulation, and executive functioning.
This letter to future self is a great activity to look at where one is and where one would like to be as a future version of themselves. Pair that future version with a goal ladder to break down the steps to achieve that version.
Stop and Think Cards
Next, you’ll find stop and think cards that can be cut out and used for students to write out their current situation, as they think through their emotions, behaviors, and the environment or situation. Questions include:
- What am I supposed to be doing?
- What am I doing?
- I feel___because____.
- What might happen?
- What tools can I use to help me?
These cards give users the chance to literally stop, and think!
Try using the stop and think questions and cards within activities like these:
- Executive Functioning Skills Games
- More executive functioning games
- Engaging executive function activities
Tools to Stop and Think
Next, you’ll find a printable page that can help within the moment. These are the tools that kids (or teens or adults) can use after they pause and think. The list of coping tools are strategies that implement sensory input or input in the way of heavy work, oral motor input, or vestibular movement.
These are calming and regulating sensory strategies that allow one to refocus and get to a calm and alert state of “ready to go”. There is also space to write in specific tools that work for the individual.
Other tools to help kids stop and think include:
Stop and Think Reward Chart
Finally, the last page of the Stop and Think Worksheets set is a reward chart sheet. This is a visual prompt for achieving goals as a result of stopping and thinking in the moment. This reward chart may not work for every child or every individual using these stop and think strategies, but it is a tool that is available.
Helping kids to set goals for stopping and thinking is so valuable and this reward chart page can be used in that process.
Would you like to use this printable resource in your interventions, home programing, or classroom? You can grab this resource, print it off, and use over and over again.
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The Impulse Control Journal…a printable resource for helping kids strategize executive functioning skill development. 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…
Grab the Impulse Control Journal to build organizational strategies, planning, prioritization, habits, and mindset in kids.
Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to email@example.com.