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Fostering Self-Regulation in 3-5 Year Olds

Tere Bowen-Irish, OTR/L

November 15, 2023



How do we set up relationships, environments, and situations to aid in self-regulation skills?


When endeavoring to enhance self-regulation skills in children, cultivating appropriate relationships, environments, and situations is fundamental within the realm of physical therapy. A comprehensive strategy involves integrating various elements into both curriculum and activities, such as designated center and circle times, aiming to instill the importance of adhering to routines. This predictability serves as a cornerstone, enabling the extrapolation of self-regulation skills into broader contexts beyond the educational setting.

Furthermore, adopting a multi-dimensional perspective in approaching children is crucial. Observable behavioral facets warrant attention, allowing for guidance in acclimatizing children to the school environment, fostering adaptability, and encouraging participation in diverse activities available. Addressing emotional development represents another pivotal facet. Acknowledging the spectrum of emotions that children may display is vital, particularly in instances where separation anxiety or parental detachment concerns arise. Cultivating emotional resilience contributes significantly to a child's overall emotional well-being.

In addition, play skills play a central role in this process, with open-ended play serving as a valuable avenue for children to effectively process their emotions. Insufficient playtime within the environment can impede emotional expression and hinder development. Understanding the egocentric nature typical of this age group, alongside their cognitive abilities, genetic predispositions, and individual motivations for school attendance, is paramount in tailoring interventions effectively.

In summation, embracing a holistic approach to bolstering emotional and behavioral development in children is imperative for educators and therapists alike. Creating nurturing environments, establishing structured routines, and advocating for open-ended play substantially contribute to the social-emotional growth and overall well-being of children. This holistic approach holds promise in facilitating the acquisition and refinement of self-regulation skills, positioning children for a more prosperous future.

This Ask the Expert is an edited excerpt from the course, Exploring Self Regulation With 3 To 5 Year Olds by Tere Bowen-Irish, OTR/L. 


tere bowen irish

Tere Bowen-Irish, OTR/L

Tere Bowen-Irish has been practicing occupational therapy for over 40 years in pediatrics and psychiatry. Tere provides assessment, treatment, and collaborative services in public and private school systems. Through her business, All the Possibilities Inc., she offers workshops for therapists, parents, and educators focusing on service delivery, classroom management, mindfulness, wellness, and prevention for all school-age children. Tere is also the creator of The Drive Thru Menu Suite of Exercises (published by Therapro), an initiative to bring movement into today’s classrooms. She is a certified YogaKids Inc. teacher and incorporates creative movement and yoga into her practice. She is a Certified Mindful Schools Instructor. She is also the author of Yoga and Me, Come be a Tree and co-authored My Mindful Music with Mary Ann Harman.

Related Courses

Exploring Self Regulation With 3 To 5 Year Olds
Presented by Tere Bowen-Irish, OTR/L
Recorded Webinar


Tere Bowen-Irish, OTR/L
Course: #4768Level: Intermediate1 Hour
  'Easy to listen'   Read Reviews
Self-regulation for 3–5-year-olds can be quite variable. As we know, self-regulation skills help kids navigate their environments, regardless of age. This seminar explores self-regulation for little ones just starting their first school experience. Learning to wait, responding calmly, being able to listen, and direction following are all part of building the foundational skills of self-reg. Let’s help them get a great start!

Executive Function and Its Application to Physical Therapy in School Based Treatment
Presented by Tere Bowen-Irish, OTR/L
Recorded Webinar


Tere Bowen-Irish, OTR/L
Course: #4782Level: Advanced1 Hour
  'Clear and concise'   Read Reviews
Do you have students on your caseload with memory, organization, emotional regulation, attentional, and judgment challenges? These are just a few aspects of executive function. Our role is to help students access their classrooms, so why not utilize a brain-based approach in our school-based treatment? Join me for some ideas and strategies for best practices.

Play, Has It Become A 4 Letter Word In Education?
Presented by Tere Bowen-Irish, OTR/L
Recorded Webinar


Tere Bowen-Irish, OTR/L
Course: #4783Level: Intermediate1 Hour
  'creative ideas'   Read Reviews
The concept of returning to play-based Pre-K and K seems to be making a resurgence. Promoting learning via play makes sense as children naturally learn through exploration, cause and effect, and pleasure. Throwing away the worksheets to pave the way for play-based learning to become the norm can initially be daunting for all working with young children. We will discuss research, implementation, and outcomes that promote this initiative.

QiKIDS™ - Qigong for Pediatrics
Presented by Amy M. Starkey, COTA/L, CTP-E, CYMHS
Recorded Webinar


Amy M. Starkey, COTA/L, CTP-E, CYMHS
Course: #4866Level: Introductory1 Hour
  'Good video with examples'   Read Reviews
In “QiKids: Qigong for Pediatrics”, participants will learn gentle, effective mind & body-based movements, breaths and acupressure points proven to decrease stress, calm anxiety, improve mental focus, boost immune system function, and build resiliency. Qigong is the perfect therapeutic movement exercise for both clinicians and clients wanting to create a regular mindfulness practice that supports mental, physical, and emotional health and well-being.

Impact of Motor Learning For The Child With Autism Spectrum Disorder
Presented by Mariah Woody, OTR/L, Lisa Roehl, PT, DPT, Board-Certified Clinical Specialist in Pediatric Physical Therapy
Recorded Webinar


Mariah Woody, OTR/LLisa Roehl, PT, DPT, Board-Certified Clinical Specialist in Pediatric Physical Therapy
Course: #3870Level: Advanced4 Hours
  'Expanded my knowledge and helped with programming and goals related to praxis'   Read Reviews
Master skills to implement in your practice immediately with continued Master Class. Children with ASD face challenges as they form the motor programs that serve as the basis for daily life and play. This interdisciplinary course series will expand upon the theory of praxis and the child’s ability to adaptively respond to their environment in a way that is meaningful and efficient. Through practical and clinical demonstrations, the learner will develop a deeper understanding of the importance of motor learning for the child with ASD. This course is directly related to the practice of physical therapy and is therefore appropriate for the PT/PTA.

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