Kidaptive Blog

Into the River: Practicing Impulse Control


Resisting something that feels natural is hard for anyone and requires great impulse control. Impulse control can refer to the control of both verbal and physical responses. Researchers have shown that the inhibition of a physical response is more challenging for young children and generally develops later, but this “watery” adventure is a great way to practice!


  • Open space
  • Blanket or towel


1. Lay the blanket or towel on the floor. Explain to your child that the towel represents a river and that the space on either side of the blanket is the riverbank.

2. Tell them, “When I say ‘into the river,’ your job is to jump into the river, and when I say ‘onto the bank,’ your job is to jump back onto the riverbank.”

3. Do a few practice rounds with your learner in which you alternate saying the two instructions: “into the river, onto the bank, into the river, onto the bank,” and so on.

4. When your child understands the two instructions, start the real game. Get your child into a rhythm of jumping into the river and back onto the riverbank, but then switch things up! For example, after “into the river,” say “into the river” again. If your child jumps back onto the riverbank when they hear the second instruction, say, “Got you!”

5. Repeat the “into the river, onto the bank” pattern again until your child gets into a rhythm. Then break the pattern and give a different direction.

6. Do this several times to give your learner lots of practice.

As your child plays, pay attention to how easily they settle into the rhythm of “into the river, onto the bank.” In the rounds where you break the pattern and give a different direction, count how many times your child follows the new direction correctly. This is a sign that they have inhibited their automatic response, which is to follow the previously established pattern.

You can also make this activity into a fun party game: simply make the “river” a bit longer to accommodate more children, and let them take turns calling out the directions!

We would love to hear your thoughts on this activity, as well as suggestions on future topics to cover! Please leave a comment.

One thought on “Into the River: Practicing Impulse Control”

  1. I just discovered your website and took a look at your blog. Into the River is a great little activity. I just finished a book “Executive Function and Child Development” by Yeager and Yeager and was thinking about more activities than the examples in the book. Yours fits! I will be exploring your site and products. I teach technology applications in education at a university in Michigan. And I also have had my own preschool for over 30 years. I am very interested in what you are doing.
    Anne E. Porter, Ph.D.

Comments are closed.