Self-regulation Skills Linked to School Readiness

School readiness has always been at the heart of Sesame Street’s mission. Families and teachers are especially concerned that their children gain specific skills that can help them to be successful once they enter the kindergarten classroom. Children are born ready to learn, but how and what they learn is critical in predicting children’s success in school. Thus, our focus for Season 45 is on School Readiness and identifying the fundamental academic skills linked with the process skills of self-regulation and executive function to unify our whole child curriculum. 

Self-regulation/executive function is a critical skill for preschoolers and affects children socially, behaviorally, and academically. In fact, self- regulation is often a better predictor of a child’s academic success in reading and math than a child’s IQ (Blair & Razza, 2007). Unfortunately, children often begin kindergarten without important skills, such as being able to follow directions, stay on task with focused attention and the ability to regulate their own emotions using concrete strategies. Moreover, Kindergarten teachers view self-regulation as being more essential for school readiness, than academic skills, such as counting or recognizing letters. Skills, such as regulating emotions, controlling and resisting impulses and exerting self-control are essential for social-emotional competence, developing healthy habits and academic success.

Teachers believe the most essential skills for successfully transitioning to kindergarten are: communicating thoughts and ideas, being enthusiastic and curious, being able to follow directions and being sensitive to other children’s feelings (Lin, Lawrence, & Gorell, 2003). New research suggests that a little less than half of children were rated by their teachers as “in progress” or above (3 or above on a 5-point scale) on social-emotional/executive function items (Bernstein, West, Newsham, & Reid, 2014). In the short term, this affects school readiness. In the long term, poor development of self-regulation is linked with aggressive behavior, low academic achievement, delinquency and higher dropout rates (Raver, 2002).

Self-regulation and the underlying cognitive skills (executive function) can be taught during the preschool years. Many strategies and activities promote self-regulation and the necessary skills to enable children to be more successful in school and in life. Development of these skills, particularly, impulse control, occur rapidly during the preschool years and play a pivotal role in children’s long-term development. Children are able to respond in a more purposeful and controlled manner through the ABCs of self-regulation:

(A)ffect: Ability to understand and manage your feelings. Be able to identify and label one’s emotions and recognize and label the emotions of others.

(B)ehavioral: Intentional self-control/impulse control, frustration tolerance/task persistence, delay of gratification, appropriate social behaviors, friendship skills, manners

(C)ognitive ( Executive Function skills)- working memory, focused attention, attention set-shifting (cognitive flexibility), planning, task persistence, performance monitoring 

Through Sesame Street’s engaging and loveable monsters, Muppets, and diverse human cast, we can help children reach their fullest potential. By modeling and practicing important self-regulation/executive function skills and strategies while learning core academic concepts on the show and across multiple media platforms, we can support school readiness and academic achievement.