Impulse Control Worksheets

impulse control worksheets

This past week, I’ve shared a few impulse control resources and these impulse control resources are just one more tool to add to the toolbox! I wanted to pull out a few of the helpful controlling impulsive behavior worksheets from The Impulse Control Journal to share with you. Use these in isolation, or grab the whole 80 page packet to use to help with areas such as habits, mindset, goal setting, and focusing on addressing impulsive behaviors that impact learning, social emotional learning, and more.

Free impulse control worksheets to help kids and teens with impulse control skills.

Impulse Control Worksheets

These free impulse control worksheets are just a snippet of the materials you’ll find in the Impulse Control Journal.

Included in this sample pack are 5 pages:

  • When is Impulse Control Hard
  • What Does Impulse Control Look Like Worksheet
  • BIG Emotions Journal Writing Page
  • Feelings Journal Writing Page
  • Coping Skills Journal Writing Page

Each page is printable and you can use them over and over again to target impulsive behaviors and actions.

Use the impulse control worksheets as teaching tools for kids and teens to show how responses to situations, emotions, and mindset impact impulsive actions, and how to use specific coping strategies to allow learning and functioning in situations. When is Impulse Control Hard

Free impulse control skills worksheets for teens and kids.

When is Impulse Control Hard Worksheet

This page in the packet describes situations when impulse control skills can be difficult. This is important because it helps individuals realize that they are not alone, and that controlling impulsive behaviors isn’t something to be worried about, ashamed of, or that they are the only ones having trouble controlling their impulses.

The worksheet includes a teaching portion: If you think about it, you might start to notice a pattern of times and places when using impulse control is hard.

Users can then check off any times or places that using impulse control is difficult. This can change depending on the day, the situation, emotions, events, etc. Users can also fill in any times not on the list.

Then, the worksheet asks about when using impulse control is easiest and when it is hardest. This is a good exercise to journal and build a toolbox of experiences using working memory. What are some strategies that DID help the user to be safe or make good choices in a a particular situation? What impacted poor choices? These are all areas that can be expanded upon.

What Does Impulse Control Look Like Worksheet

This worksheet helps kids understand what impulse control is and how specific situations can lead to different impulsive behaviors or actions to different people. The executive function worksheet then describes different ways to use impulse control skills in different situaitons. The worksheet allows users to check off different ways they have demonstrated impulse control skills in the past.

This is a great way to teach, but also to build working memory skills. What has worked in the past can be pulled from to use as a tool in the future.

Next, the worksheet asks about times that the individual has used good examples of impulse control. It also asks about specific times or events where poor impulse control was used. This worksheet can be used on a daily or weekly basis to help with working memory in building coping tools for impulse control.

BIG Emotions Journal Writing Page

Another worksheet in the packet is one on BIG emotions. These are the emotions that can be difficult to manage in a way that impacts actions and behaviors. The worksheet includes a quote from Fred Rogers:

“When we talk about our emotions, they become less
overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary.”

-quote by Fred Rogers

Kids can use the worksheet to journal about their biggest emotions, using the journal prompts. There is also a drawing prompt as well.

The big emotions prompts touch on interoception as well. Interoception, or the sense of the internal state of the body, is a sense that can impact how we “feel” on the inside with big emotions. Sensations connected with emotions might include:

  • Butterflies in the stomach
  • Heart racing
  • Holding your breath
  • Breathing fast
  • Stomach churning
  • “Seeing red”
  • Tensed muscles

Here is more information on emotions and interoception. The worksheet asks questions like this because it can help users to connect the dots between big emotions and impulsive actions.

There are also pieces on this worksheet that include concepts of empathy awareness. It asks users to recall times when others may have experienced big emotions. It can be helpful to connect to others and see that impulsive actions are something that everyone deals with at one time or another.

Feelings Journal Writing Page

There is also a feelings worksheet. This worksheet is intended to help users realized that feelings are great to experience, whether they are feelings of happiness, sadness, or anger, etc. Sometimes some of our kiddos might get into a thought process where if they are in a “red zone” (relating to the Zones of Regulation program), they might get it in their head that being in a red zone is a bad thing, when it’s definitely not!

There is a quote by Jonathan Martensson on this worksheet page:

Feelings are much like waves, we can’t stop them from coming, but we can choose which one to surf.

– quote by Jonathan Martensson

The journal page goes on to include writing and drawing prompts about feelings and emotions.

Coping Skills Journal Writing Page

And finally, there is a coping skills worksheet. This page includes writing prompts and a drawing prompt about coping tools that can be used in situations when impulse control might be needed. This worksheet page helps users draw from past experiences and to build their working memory “bucket” of tools they can use in the future. There is also a quote from John Wooden:

Don’t let what you can’t do stop you from doing what you
can do.

-quote by John Wooden

You may also want to grab the Impulse Control Journal, which is where these worksheets come from. It’s a huge resource designed to develop and strengthen executive functioning skills as well as habit building, goal setting, mindset, and of course, impulse control. I love this journal because it helps kids and teens to recognize their strengths, build upon them, and realize they have the capability to do what they need to do and what they want to do.

Impulse Control Journal the OT Toolbox

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.

Free Impulse Control Worksheets

So, what do you think? Would you like to add this printable worksheet set to your therapy toolbox? You’ll need to enter your email address into the form below to access this file.

Free Impulse Control Worksheets

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    Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20 years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

    Stop and Think

    Stop and think worksheets

    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 worksheets for kids to help them with working memory, impulse control and teaching strategies to stop and think before acting.

    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 visyal 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 functioing.

    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:

    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.

    Simply enter your email address into the form below and the file will be delivered to your inbox. NOTE: Due to increases in email and internet security for those using work email addresses, the email that delivers this file may be blocked. If you typically use an email ending with .edu, .org, .uni, .gov, etc. consider using a personal email address instead for deliverability.

    Free Stop and Think Worksheets

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      Impulse Control Journal the OT Toolbox

      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 is an occupational therapist with 20 years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

      Self-Monitoring Strategies for Kids

      self-monitoring strategies handouts

      One of the big executive functioning skills is the ability to self-monitor oneself. Self-monitoring strategies play a part in the ability to notice what is happening in the world around us and what is happening in our own body. The ability to “check” oneself and monitor actions, behaviors, and thoughts as they happen play into our ability to problem solve. Use the tips below to help kids learn how to self-monitor and problem solve. These self-monitoring strategies for kids are applicable in the classroom, home, sports field, or in social situations.

      Self-monitoring strategies and free handouts with self monitoring examples for parents, teachers, therapists.

      As a related resources, try these self-reflection activities for kids. You’ll also love these other free handouts for executive functioning skills: Organization Handouts.

      Use these self-monitoring strategies for kids to teach kids how to self-monitor their actions and behaviors for better learning, attention, and functional independence.

      Related read: Here are more executive functioning resources to fill your therapy toolbox!

      What is self-monitoring

      Self-monitoring is a process of metacognition. Metacognition is the ability to plan for and execute a task, monitor one’s actions, analyze a problem, apply a strategy, maintain attention, and evaluate or monitor completion of an activity. Ideally, metacognition should occur naturally and instinctively as we engage in an activity.

      The ability to self-monitor is made up of two main areas:

      1.) Observation- In this stage, a child is able to identify a specific behavior, thought, or action that occurred. This might happen during the action or afterwards.

      In a child who struggles with talking out in class, they may catch themselves as they are interrupting. Another child may realize they spoke out of turn only after the teacher mentions the interruption.

      In both cases, the child is able to identify what behavior has occurred through self-assessment. This level of self-monitoring is a real struggle for some students and working on the ability to notice the behaviors or actions that are inefficient or inappropriate for the situation. The ability to observe and recognize behaviors or actions is a skill, and that self-monitoring ability requires a lot of reflection, as well as the ability to recognize an ideal response or appropriate behavior for a specific situation.

      2.) Recording- This stage of self-monitoring is a means for moving from an awareness of actions and behaviors to function. In the recording stage of self-monitoring, children are able to note their actions and make changes based on what happened in specific situations.

      Having a set of strategies in place to address self-regulation needs, attention needs, or emotional supports is beneficial for use in the moment. Jotting down deviances of targeted behavior can help kids to become more aware of what happened in a specific situation and how they can make adjustments in the future to avoid specific behaviors, or how they can use accommodations and self-regulation tools to respond and react more appropriately.

      Self-Monitoring Strategies

      In talking about self-monitoring skills, let’s first discuss what exactly self-monitoring is and what it means for kids to self-monitor their actions, thoughts, and behaviors.

      Observation, or self-assessment may require work in order for the child to understand targeted behaviors.

      Recording or measurement of actions can occur through several methods:

      • Checklists
      • Parent/Teacher/Student communication sheets (where the child inputs behaviors throughout the day)
      • Journaling in a notebook or a tool such as the Impulse Control Journal
      • Data collection sheets
      • Frequency collection forms
      • Self-graphing

      Self-Monitoring Examples

      • Lists of appropriate actions or behaviors
      • Simple strategies to impact self-control
      • Visual cues
      • Verbal cues
      • Reminder notes
      • Goal setting
      • Journaling in a notebook or a tool such as the Impulse Control Journal
      • Coaching
      • Role-playing practice
      • Self-talk
      • Modeling from peers

      The goal of this stage is to get students to move from a teacher/parent/therapist/adult support of self-assessment to a self-assessment status where the child identifies behaviors and actions that are off-target.

      A child’s ability to stay organized can make a big impact on self-monitoring. Use the organization activities and strategies identified here.

      Why is Self-Monitoring important?

      When children self-monitor their actions and thoughts, so many areas are developed and progressed:

      • Attention
      • Behavior
      • Problem-solving abilities
      • Hindsight
      • Foresight
      • Persistence
      • Shift

      You can see how each of the executive functioning skills play into the ability to self-monitor and how self-monitoring skills play into the development and use of each of the other executive functioning skills.

      The ability to self-monitor actions, behaviors, thoughts impacts learning, mindset, social and emotional skills, and functional participation in everyday tasks.

      Self-Monitoring Impacts Function

      There are also functional skills that are developed and improved through self-monitoring:

      • Learning
      • Communication
      • Behavior
      • Task initiation
      • Task completion
      • Social-emotional interaction
      • Follow-through on learned skills

      Self-Monitoring Strategies

      Below, you will find additional self-monitoring strategies that can help children with the ability to identify and self-assess and self-adjust behaviors that may occur within the classroom, home, or other environment.

      These strategies should be viewed as supports that can be used independently by the child following instruction and input to teach strategy methods.

      • Make an outline for writing tasks, homework assignments, or multi-step assignments in order to keep the child on task.
      • Utilize a self-monitoring schedule- Ask the child to stop and self-check their actions, behaviors, or thoughts to make sure they are on-task.
      • Try an index card or other visual reminder on desks for a list of appropriate behaviors.
      • Use social stories to teach appropriate actions and reactions to specific situations in the home or classroom.
      • Incorporate a schedule of self-regulation strategies to address sensory, attention, and focusing needs. A sensory diet can help with this.
      • Teach the child to check and recheck- Teach children to stop and check and then re-check their behaviors.
      • Teach the child self-talk strategies.
      • Teach students to look at their finished assignment from their teacher’s eyes. This can help them have an outside view of completed work or actions in the classroom and adjust as appropriate.
      • Sensory or coping strategies scheduled throughout the day for sensory input or movement breaks.
      • Use a timer for scheduled self-assessment and self-reflection of behaviors or actions and recording of data.
      • Work toward fading self-monitoring visual and physical cues as well as data collection means.
      • Teach the child to journal experiences. The Impulse Control Journal can be a helpful tool for children who are able to write or dictate to an adult.

      Related read– Find many strategies and activities to boost attention in kids here.  

      Self-Monitoring Handout

      Want to access this article as a printable PDF to use as a handout? Use the printable version in education to parents, teachers, therapists, and other professionals. Simply print off the printable version and add it to your therapy toolbox.

      Note: In order to access this file, you will need to enter your email address. This allows us to send the PDF directly to your email. This is a 5 page printable self-monitoring strategy outline for educating those who work with kids with self-monitoring skills in kids.

      Free Self-Monitoring Strategies Handouts

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        Impulse Control Journal the OT Toolbox

        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 is an occupational therapist with 20 years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

        Organization Handouts

        organization handouts

        Occupational therapists work with clients on executive functioning skills that impact functioning in daily tasks, or daily occupations. Sometimes organization handouts are needed to help to educate the team of a child struggling with organizational skills. In this post, you’ll find resources as well as free organization information to use helping individuals with organization.

        Free organization handouts for helping students stay organized

        Organization challenges can look like a lot of different things. In the classroom, it can look like lost homework, messy backpacks, and a disaster of a desk. You can read all about our organization information here on the website. There, you will find strategies, resources, and tools to support organizational skills.

        Try these other organization strategies here on the site, too:

        Organization Handouts

        Studies show that individuals with a small or underdeveloped frontal lobe of the brain tend to have difficulties with organization, poor memory, emotional reactions, and they tend to become overwhelmed by simple tasks. These individuals will have trouble keeping themselves organized in tasks.

        These free handouts are printable tools to identify specific needs. You’ll find information describing how these areas are connected, what organization challenges can look like, and tips to help. You’ll also find classroom sensory motor activities that can help with organizing sensory input in the classroom environment.

        Free Organization Handouts

        To grab these organization handouts, add your email address to the form below.

        Free Organization Handouts

          We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.
          Impulse Control Journal the OT Toolbox

          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 is an occupational therapist with 20 years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

          What are Executive Functioning Skills?

          Executive functioning skills are an important component of skilled occupational therapy intervention, but they can be confusing to some. What are executive functioning skills? Executive functioning skills go beyond the basics like working memory and impulse control. In fact, there is not necessarily one agreed-upon definition for executive functioning! Ready to learn more? Keep reading!

          What are executive functioning skills

          What are executive FUNCTIONING Skills?

          Executive functioning (EF) skills are diverse. Typically, EF consists of skills including the ability to manage emotions, initiate activities within a timely manner, shift attention from topics or activities, control impulses and urges, retain information for use during functional activities, develop plans and formulate systems to perform a desired task, prevent missing materials, and being mindful of how our own behavior impacts others.

          Development of executive functioning skills

          When do executive functioning skills develop?

          Executive functioning skills take a long time to develop! As a result, different ages demonstrate different challenges when facing EF deficits.

          While a child in late elementary school may seem successful with their ability to manage classroom materials, turn in homework assignments on time, and engage in age-appropriate behaviors, the same child may demonstrate significant challenges upon the transition to middle school. For example, now they have to return to their locker between classes to exchange books, which is not just a simple stop-and-go activity.

          There are distractions, the desire to engage in social interactions, a time crunch to make it to the next class on time, the need to remember what class is next and what materials they need, and not to mention needing to remember the sequence for their combination lock! This all happens before they even make it into their next classroom or head home for the day.

          How can executive functioning skills improve?

          Thanks to the brain’s neuroplasticity, EF skills have potential for improvement! Many daily activities require diverse EF skills, making them a fantastic opportunity to integrate effective strategies.

          What are executive functioning skills

          Emotional regulation as an area of executive functioning:

          Emotional regulation is one of the first areas of executive functioning that many parents want to improve, since it can add significant stress to family life. Self-reflection is one way to improve emotional regulation. However, it’s important that this takes place after the big feelings pass, since learning takes place when bodies and minds are “just right.”

          This can easily be added to family routines. One way to encourage self-reflection is to have each family member share a positive and negative from the day when seated for dinner.

          This also allows for family members to support each other (“Good luck on your test today, Jacob, you studied very hard!”) and provides opportunities for continued conversation (“You mentioned having an argument with your friend at lunch today. Is there anything I can do to help?”). It can also normalize the big feelings we all experience!

          Initiation and executive functioning skills:

          We’ve all struggled with initiation at some point in our lives; we need to complete items on an ever-growing to-do list, but just don’t know where to start! Kids experience this, too.

          For children who are competitive, make a contest out of completing tasks. See who can complete their to-do list the fastest, but with the best quality, too! Teaching children and teens how to become more independent with initiation can be fun and successful.

          Shifting as an executive function:

          Shifting is often combined with attention, since shifting requires the individual to determine what is important and focus on that, rather than what they might have been doing or thinking before.

          Take, for example, a student who was writing a paper on a Shakespearean play for their English class. They’ve now finished the assignment and have moved on to a worksheet on the quadratic formula. Their mind needs to completely turn “off” Shakespeare and turn “on” the quadratic formula.

          Luckily, there are many activities for attention. One fun way is to build an obstacle course. Each time the child completes the course, change one of the rules!

          For example, the second time, they can only touch primary colors or can only hop on one foot in between obstacles. They will not only need to remember what the new rule is, but they will have to shift away from the old rules!

          Inhibition and executive functioning:

          Inhibition is often referred to as impulse control. It can be an exhausting component of executive functioning, as it can lead to significant safety concerns.

          One way to improve impulse control with younger children is through the game “Red Light, Green Light.” Many children (even early teenagers) enjoy playing versions of “Floor is Lava,” avoiding certain materials as they attempt to navigate a room. This can also be a great way to work on working memory!

          Working memory as an executive function:

          Working memory can be a significant challenge for many individuals. Working memory requires us to retain learned information and use it during daily activities.

          There are many ways to support working memory development and deficits. There are many task-management apps available, even for things like medication management. For activities to improve working memory, try playing games like Magic Labyrinth, Melissa and Doug’s Sandwich Stacking Game, or making a recipe!

          Planning/organizing for executive functioning success:

          Planning for projects and organizing ideas is stressful! It can be helpful to go through large assignments one at a time. Break the assignment into manageable pieces, including what materials are needed for that step and when that step needs to be completed.

          The good news is that these skills can experience definite improvements with practice. Check out this link for more information and strategies on prioritization and planning skill development.

          Organization of materials and executive functioning:

          Messy rooms with laundry covering the floor, desks and lockers overflowing with paper, expandable folders filled to the brim with assignments—these are the signs of a disorganized student! Organization is often the first thing to go when a person feels stressed or overwhelmed, as it can be time-consuming.

          To support a child’s organization skills development, try making checklists for their locker or desk. As they place each item into their backpack, they can check a box to make sure they have everything they need before they go! Or, use labels to clearly define where belongings go in a closet or on a bookshelf.

          Executive functioning skills in kids

          Monitoring for executive functioning success:

          Monitoring is important since we all interactive with others on a daily basis! Monitoring is the acknowledgement that we behave in certain ways and that these behaviors can affect other people.

          Self-reflection (mentioned above) can be a good way to promote monitoring. An individual can process through what they think went well, what they struggled with, and how they think others felt during these events. Behavior charts can also be helpful by clearly listing out what the expectation is and whether the individual demonstrated that skill area. Ultimately, the goal is to encourage self-monitoring as much as possible, rather than adults monitoring the child. The possibilities for monitoring strategies  are diverse and it’s possible to find something that works for each person.

          More Executive Functioning Skills Resources:

          • Free Executive Function Mini-Course- Wondering about what are executive functioning skills? This Executive Functioning Skills Course is a FREE, 5-day email course that will help you understand executive functioning and all that is included in the set of mental skills.
          • This collection of executive functioning skills resources outline many aspects of higher cognitive skills through various EF skill areas.
          • Getting organized can be a start to addressing several executive functioning skill areas. Here is a collection of organization strategies, tips, and tools.
          What are executive functioning skills? This resource on attention, organization, planning, and other executive functions helps kids develop skills needed for learning.
          The OT Toolbox contributing author, Emily Skaletski, MOT, OTR/L

          This post was written by contributing author, Emily Skaletski, MOT, OTR/L is a pediatric occupational therapist in the Madison, WI area. Emily participated in the Pennsylvania Occupational Therapy Association’s Emerging Leaders Program (2016), earned her level 1 digital badge in autism from the American Occupational Therapy Association (2017), received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Chatham University (2018), and was appointed the South-Central District Co-Chair of the Wisconsin Occupational Therapy Association (2019). Emily has presented at both state and national conferences and is passionate about professional development. While trained as a generalist, Emily particularly enjoys working with clients with autism spectrum disorder and challenges related to executive functioning skills.

          For resources, tools, and printable activities to improve and strengthen the development of executive functioning skills, check out The Impulse Control Journal.

          Impulse Control Journal the OT Toolbox

          Flower Snacks

          flower snacks

          These flower snacks are fun and super easy to create with kids and build fine motor skills in the kitchen. If you are looking for creating ways to add healthy snacks into a child’s diet, these flower themed snacks are just that. Whether kids help in the kitchen for fun or for the benefits of building executive functioning skills or fine motor development, there are many reasons to make these flower healthy treats! Add these cooking with kids activities to your Spring occupational therapy toolbox.

          Flower snacks that are healthy snacks for kids

          Flower Snacks

          The flower snacks you see below are creative ways to add fun healthy foods for kids. But, even better, kids can help to make these treats. When kids make these snacks, they are building many skills.

          Getting kids involved in the kitchen helps to develop fine motor skills like eye-hand coordination, dexterity, and motor planning. All of these skills are refined through dicing, chopping, scooping, and pouring.

          Cooking with kids also is a powerhouse task for developing executive functioning skills. Following recipes, direction following, impulse control, planning, prioritization, and working memory are all skills that are developed through meal preparation and recipe following.

          Here are more cooking with kids recipes to get kids active in the kitchen to develop skills.

           
           
           
          Flower snacks for cute healthy foods for kids
           

           

          Let’s get started with those flower snacks…
           

          6 healthy flower snacks:

          Beet slices flower snack– Use a flower shaped cookie cutter to cut beet slices (or other soft fruit/veggies: pineapple, apples, thin potatoes…
           
          Mandarin orange flower– Peel an orange and open one end.  Add celery for a stem.
           
          Orange with flair–  Add a grape tomato to the center of your orange to add a little color.  Other fruits could also be arranged into a flower shape: apple, pear, and banana slices would work.
           
          Dried cranberry mini flowers– Arrange cranberries (or raisins) into petal shapes.  Add chickpeas for a center to each flower.
           
          Tulip cucumbers– Cut a jagged line into cucumber slices.  Add a piece of the peel for stems for each flower.
           
          Flower art–  Get the kids involved in this one!  Provide carrots, broccoli, red peppers, grape tomatoes and create a flower design as a family.  Enjoy!

           

          Cute flower snack ideas for kids!  Kids can help make these flower themed healthy treats.

          Make today special with a little bit of healthy flower fun!  While you’re at it, make a few flower crafts: 

           

          Spring Fine Motor Kit

          Score Fine Motor Tools and resources and help kids build the skills they need to thrive!

          Developing hand strength, dexterity, dexterity, precision skills, and eye-hand coordination skills that kids need for holding and writing with a pencil, coloring, and manipulating small objects in every day task doesn’t need to be difficult. The Spring Fine Motor Kit includes 100 pages of fine motor activities, worksheets, crafts, and more:

          Spring fine motor kit set of printable fine motor skills worksheets for kids.
          • Lacing cards
          • Sensory bin cards
          • Hole punch activities
          • Pencil control worksheets
          • Play dough mats
          • Write the Room cards
          • Modified paper
          • Sticker activities
          • MUCH MORE

          Click here to add this resource set to your therapy toolbox.

          Spring Fine Motor Kit
          Spring Fine Motor Kit: TONS of resources and tools to build stronger hands.

          Grab your copy of the Spring Fine Motor Kit and build coordination, strength, and endurance in fun and creative activities. Click here to add this resource set to your therapy toolbox.

          Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20 years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

          Spring Activities for Executive Functioning

          Spring activities for executive functioning

          Here, we’re covering spring activities for executive functioning skills. Executive functioning has recently become a bit of a buzzword. There’s good reason: parents, teachers, and therapists are more aware of the developmental processes that impacts learning, social emotional skills, functional tasks, safety, and even handwriting. Buzz like a bee, spring into executive functioning, and learn more about this concept and how you can integrate it into your Spring occupational therapy activities!

          spring executive function activities

          Spring activities for Executive Functioning

          Spring is such a great time of the year. Flowers blooming, the smell of freshly fallen rain, and increasingly temperate weather for those of us who live in snowy winter areas! This is an opportunity to enjoy some more play outdoors. The start of Spring also can mean a time to develop new goals in the way of executive functioning.

          Play is incredibly important for development, especially in the area of executive functioning. Take the opportunity to encourage more complex play in your dialogue with a child. This article discusses the value of open-ended play for executive functioning development.

          Interested in learning more about executive functioning? Check out this list of books about executive function.

          For a fun way to get kids involved in creating goals and targeting specific executive functions, grab the Impulse Control Journal, a printable pages to document working memory, prioritization, planning, and other executive functioning skills.

          Outdoor Spring Activities for Executive Functioning

          Going into the outdoors is an amazing spring-time opportunity for executive functioning growth. Simple games like hide and seek encourage children to utilize working memory (remembering where they already looked when in the role of seeker), prediction (where a challenging hiding spot might be), and self-monitoring and impulse control (not giving away hiding spots).

          A sensory nature walk for the family incorporates all aspects of sensory processing but also offers opportunities for building executive functioning experiences in the ways of attention, focus, impulse control, working memory, planning, prioritization. All of these skills can be addressed through conversation, hands-on play, movement, and experiencing the outdoors.

          Other activities like hopscotch also present an opportunity to utilize working memory (try increasing the challenge by requiring that they only jump on the odds!) initiation. Encourage opportunities for open-ended play, such as pretend play using items found during a scavenger hunt. Speaking of, scavenger hunts are a great way to encourage the use of executive functioning skills outdoors! Working memory, planning and organizing, impulse control, initiation, self and task-monitoring, and so on.

          Outdoor play is always encouraged, but it gets a lot easier in spring without the need to bundle up in cold climates! There are so many ways to work on executive functioning skills outdoors, so get outside and play!

          Spring Indoor Activities for Executive Functioning

          Weather sometimes becomes an obstacle to playing outdoors in spring. However, there are many ways to integrate executive functioning into indoor play on rainy days.

          Sure, scavenger hunts can be more challenging outdoors, but try making one indoors! You could even require that all of the items start with a certain letter of the alphabet or be a certain color to make it more difficult!

          Board games are another great way to work on executive functioning skills. Some favorites include Outfoxed, cribbage, Ticket to Ride, and Magic Labyrinth.

          Cooking can be another fun activity for executive functioning skills when stuck indoors! Find a recipe that the whole family can make. Split up the components into age-appropriate “jobs” for everyone.

          If cooking sparks the interest of a child or teen, try these Spring flower themed recipes and snacks. You can incorporate the benefits of healthy heating with executive functioning skills in the kitchen.

          Spring cleaning, anyone? While kids may not love cleaning, it can certainly be helpful for families and a good life skill to learn! Something like cleaning a bedroom is a great age-appropriate task for many kids: taking the items off of the floor and putting them in their respective locations, staying on task, and deciding what “clean” looks like and when to be done!

          Incorporating chores into the daily to-do list might require a chore list or a screen-time list with required tasks before fun activities are done. Try this free screen-time list to monitory chores as part of daily activities.

          Whether outdoors or indoors, spring into executive functioning!

          Engaging Ways to Improve Executive Functioning Skills

          In a previous post , we talked about the use of strategy games as a method to improve executive functioning (EF) skills. While this is a great tool that children and teens can participate in both in and out of the clinic, there are many other everyday activities to promote EF skill development! Here are some more engaging ways to improve executive functioning skills.

          Executive functioning skills are an important client factor contributing to successful participation in daily occupations. EF is currently a buzzword, but it isn’t a new idea. Check out a few ways that you can help children and teens develop their EF skills!

          Cooking for Executive Functioning Skill Development

          Cooking is a great way to work on executive functioning with a treat at the end! Cooking requires many executive functioning skills. Kids need to use impulse control to complete one step at a time and pace themselves, avoid ingesting raw ingredients or eating all of their hard work, as well as prevent injury with sharp or hot tools. They also need to use working memory to recall what ingredients they need after looking at a recipe, as well as recalling the quantity of that ingredient.

          Crafts and Projects for Executive Functioning Skill Development

          Crafts and projects are another great way to work on executive functioning skills. Does your client have a special interest in the U.S. Presidents? Have them create a board game related to this interest! They will need to keep track of their materials, manage their time appropriately, and consider the perspectives of others who might play their game!

          Executive Functioning and Gross Motor Activities

          Gross motor and executive functioning activities can go hand in hand. Almost any activity can be adapted to integrate gross motor play! In a large room, a child could look at a list of items, then race to the other side of the room on their scooter to find an object, just like “I Spy” books and games!

          Many kids love to make obstacle courses, allowing for the development of initiation (getting started on building, instead of making grand plans and running out of time to make the course), impulse control (try changing the rules on them halfway through! “No touching red pieces!”), and metacognition (have them evaluate what went well, what did not go as well, and what they would change).

          Executive Functioning and Daily Routines

          Daily routines are a natural opportunity for the development of executive functioning skills. However, this also goes the other direction, because executive functioning is critical for independence in daily routines. Have clients create visuals to support their attention and sequencing of multiple step routines. If a child takes a significant amount of time to complete their routine, have a race to see who can get ready the fastest!

          Try a few of these activity ideas to integrate executive functioning skill development in an enjoyable, approachable way! Most of all, have fun!

          More Spring Resources for therapy

          Spring Fine Motor Kit

          Score Fine Motor Tools and resources and help kids build the skills they need to thrive!

          Developing hand strength, dexterity, dexterity, precision skills, and eye-hand coordination skills that kids need for holding and writing with a pencil, coloring, and manipulating small objects in every day task doesn’t need to be difficult. The Spring Fine Motor Kit includes 100 pages of fine motor activities, worksheets, crafts, and more:

          Spring fine motor kit set of printable fine motor skills worksheets for kids.
          • Lacing cards
          • Sensory bin cards
          • Hole punch activities
          • Pencil control worksheets
          • Play dough mats
          • Write the Room cards
          • Modified paper
          • Sticker activities
          • MUCH MORE

          Click here to add this resource set to your therapy toolbox.

          Spring Fine Motor Kit
          Spring Fine Motor Kit: TONS of resources and tools to build stronger hands.

          Grab your copy of the Spring Fine Motor Kit and build coordination, strength, and endurance in fun and creative activities. Click here to add this resource set to your therapy toolbox.

          Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20 years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

          Exercise and Mood: Why Does my Child Need to Exercise?

          Exercise and mood in kids

          Years of research and personal experience can tell us that adults tend to function better with regular exercise. Exercise helps us sleep better, reduce our stress, and manage our weight2. But what about our kids – how do they benefit from exercise? Today we are going to dive deep into the research and see why and how our kids should exercise to better their mood. Let’s look at the link between exercise and mood, and establishing healthy habits that lead to function and independence in kids.

          Related: Emotional Regulation and Executive Functioning Skills.

          Exercise and mood in children. Kids benefit from exercise to help with tantrums, behaviors, and confidence.

          Exercise and Mood: Managing TEMPER TANTRUMS

          If your child is having issues with emotional regulation, it may come out as a temper tantrum. You know the feeling of having no control over your emotions; being taken on a ride of sadness, aggression, and pounds of heavy frustration. Most adults have had enough practice honing their emotional regulation skills to keep them from screaming in the middle of the grocery store after a long day. Children, however, are still working on developing emotional regulation skills, and because of that, their overall mood can suffer.

          According to research new and old, exercise can help a child better regulate their mood9. Next time your child is screaming in the middle of Target, think to yourself – have they gotten enough physical activity recently? I have found that 30 mins of exercise in the morning can help even out moods for the whole day. Plus, you are bound to get a good nap time out of them if they have gotten enough physical activity – double whammy for everyone’s mood!

          Tips for Exercise and Mood

          Try these tips for encouraging exercise to reduce tantrums in toddlers:

          • Instead of pushing your toddler in a scroller on neighborhood walks, encourage them to walk next to you for a while.
          • Use classic movement songs to incorporate movement into their day – our favorites are “Animal Action” By Greg and Steve, “Jim Along Josie” By Pete Seeger, and “Pet Parade” by Hoyt Axton.
          • If screen time is a part of your routine, use videos like Cosmic Kids Yoga  to make the screen time more valuable.

          Exercise to REDUCe ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION

          Research shows that regular exercise in youth can treat anxiety and depression in the short term and long-term 3,4. Some studies suggest that high-intensity exercises, that will increase cardiorespiratory activity, improve mood more than low-impact exercises, like yoga5.

          While there is lots of evidence to support that exercise can improve mood in both adults and children, some of the research points to other affects that exercise programs can have on children. For example, when children are enrolled in sports or other physical activity programs, they are also socially active and get attention from adults, which may also positively impact their mood7.

          Whatever way you look at it, exercise is likely to improve their mood and guard against anxiety and depression.

          Exercise for self-CONFIDENCE

          One way that exercise improves mood is through raising self-esteem – physical activity gives you a confidence boost! Research shows that all kinds of physical activity contribute to a rise in self-esteem5.

          Self-esteem is so important in all the occupations that children have, particularly in school. Academic and social success are partially dependent on self-esteem and self-worth, and both contribute to a positive mood.

          “Psychological and behavioural problems in children and adolescents are common, and improving self‐esteem may help to prevent the development of such problems” (Ekeland et al., 2004).

          Exercise and positive BEHAVIORS

          In one study, researchers found that teachers reported an increase in wanted behaviors for children enrolled in both high and low-intensity exercise programs5. The theory here is that when a child’s physical activity needs are met, they are better able to regulate their emotions, attention, and behaviors9.

          This comes with the awesome effects that exercise has for executive functioning, which controls many cognitive abilities6. With this increase in desirable behaviors, they will be more likely to develop positive relationships with their peers, teachers, and family members8.

          “Exercise…is highly relevant in preadolescent children… given the importance of well-developed executive functions for daily life functioning” (Verburgh et al., 2014). 

          Exercise has been shown to increase self-esteem, cognition and academic success, and decrease depression and anxiety in children3. Not to mention the obvious health factors associated with physical activity like heart and respiratory function. All said, exercise is integral to the overall health and wellness of our children.

          EXERCISES FOR KIDS

          After all that exercise talk, we have to offer some great ideas to add to your list! Most important to any exercise routine – you have to do what you love! Find what your kids like and encourage them to try new activities.

          Another key strategy to encourage exercise in kids is to model healthy habits as the child’s parent. When parents model healthy choices, fitness, and regular exercise, kids see that and are more likely to follow suit with their own healthy choices.

          One way that adults can model healthy choices is through exercising in the home. When kids see adults exercising, they have that positive interaction with physical activity.

          Having a treadmill in the home is one sure-fire way to encourage movement, exercise, and healthy habits that are integrated into the day-to-day. With  Horizon Fitness treadmills and fitness equipment, you get the availablity of cardio equiptment right in the home. It’s there as a visable option for adding movement and regular cardio exercise on a daily or weekly basis.

          Plus, parents of children can benefit from the fitness programs for quick and effective workouts that fit into the busy family’s schedule. Horizon offers a number of entertainment apps and streaming options, including Bluetooth speakers,  live or on-demand fitness apps, and other streaming fitness opportunities. All of these extras are designed to promote improved physical exercise and meaningful motivation.

          Click here to join me in using Horizon Fitness equipment as a tool to ensure healthy families.

          References

          1. Ekeland, E., Heian, F., Hagen, K. B., Abbott, J. M. & Nordheim, L. (2004). Exercise to improve self‐esteem in children and young people. Cochrane Libary of Systematic Reviews. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD003683.pub

          2. Oaten, M. & Cheng, K. (2010). Longitudinal gains in self‐regulation from regular physical exercise. The British Journal of Health Psychology,11(4). https://doi.org/10.1348/135910706X96481

          3. Ortega, F. B., Ruiz, J. R., Castillo, M. J. & Sjöström, M. (2008). Physical fitness in childhood and adolescence: a powerful marker of health. International Journal of Obesity, 32, 1–11. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ijo.0803774

          4. Pascoe, M. C. & Parker, A. G. (2018). Physical activity and exercise as a universal depression prevention in young people: A narrative review. Early Intervention in Psychiatry, 13(4). https://doi.org/10.1111/eip.12737

          5. Telles, S., Singh, N., Bhardwaj, A. D., Kumar, A. & Balkrishna, A. (2013). Effect of yoga or physical exercise on physical, cognitive and emotional measures in children: a randomized controlled trial. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health,7(37). https://doi.org/10.1186/1753-2000-7-37

          6. Verburgh, L., Königs, M., Scherder, E. J. A., & Oosterlaan, J. (2014). Physical exercise and executive functions in preadolescent children, adolescents and young adults: a meta-analysis. British Journal of Sports Medicine,48, 973-979. https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/48/12/973

          7. Williams, C. F., Bustamante, E. E., Waller, J. L. & Davis, C. L. (2019). Exercise effects on quality of life, mood, and self-worth in overweight children: the SMART randomized controlled trial. Translational Behavioral Medicine,9(3), 451–459. https://doi.org/10.1093/tbm/ibz015

          8. Xue, Y., Yang, Y. & Huang, T. (2019). Effects of chronic exercise interventions on executive function among children and adolescents: A systematic review with meta-analysis. British Journal of Sports Medicine,53, 1397-1404. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2017-097600

          9. Zhang, Y., Fu, R., Sun, L., Gong, Y., & Tang, D. (2019). How does exercise improve implicit emotion regulation ability: Preliminary evidence of mind-body exercise intervention combined with aerobic jogging and mindfulness-based yoga. Frontiers in Psychology,10. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01888

          Sydney Rearick, OTS, is an occupational therapy graduate student at Concordia University Wisconsin. Her background is in Human Development and Family Studies, and she is passionate about meeting your family’s needs. After working as a nanny for the last decade, Sydney is prepared to handle just about anything an infant, toddler, or child could throw at her. She is also a newly established children’s author and illustrator and is always working on new and exciting projects.

          Exercise and Mood Resources for Kids

          You’ll love these resources designed to help kids get moving, exercising, and building skills, and kids won’t even realize they are “exercising”!

          Designed to use fun themes, these heavy work activity cards add proprioceptive input to help kids become more aware of their body’s position in space.

          Heavy work input allows kids to gain more awareness of motor planning skills, coordination, AND strengthening in fun and creative ways.

          Incorporate the themed exercise cards into learning themes or play.

          Grab your set of heavy work exercise cards, now.

          Includes themes:

          1. Trucks Heavy Work Activities
          2. Insects Heavy Work Activities
          3. Sea Animals Heavy Work Activities
          4. Farm Animals Heavy Work Activities
          5. Jungle Animals Heavy Work Activities
          6. Woodland Animals Heavy Work Activities
          7. Superheroes Heavy Work Activities
          8. Sports Heavy Work Activities
          9. Monsters Heavy Work Activities
          10. Summer Heavy Work Activities
          11. Butterfly Life Cycle Heavy Work Activities
          heavy work activity card example