Young Children’s Self-regulation and Teachers’ Ratings of Young Children’s Play and Approaches to Learning as a Function of Age, Gender, and Language Background

Open Access
Ko, Yoojung
Graduate Program:
Curriculum and Instruction
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
Committee Members:
  • James Ewald Johnson, Thesis Advisor
  • Edgar Paul Yoder, Thesis Advisor
  • Glendon Wilbur Blume, Thesis Advisor
  • play
  • self-regulation
  • executive function
  • approaches to learning
  • children
  • cognitive development
The purpose of this study was to explore the relationships among children’s self-regulation, play, and approaches to learning as a function of age, gender, and language status (English as a first language or as a second language). This research is based on the assumption that children who play well and take a positive approach to learning in the classroom are also effective in terms of self-regulation and other related “school readiness” skills, such as receptive vocabulary and social development in the classroom. Children (n = 50) were tested in the spring of the school year (2012) using measures for self-regulation, play, and approaches to learning together with an adaptation of an older version of the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test. In order to assess development of self-regulation, executive function tasks (i.e., day-night, tapping, and Simon says tasks) were administered in late winter and early spring. The children’s play quality and approaches to learning were rated by teachers. The results showed that children’s self-regulation is significantly related to their rating scores for play and approaches to learning and that these ratings were highly correlated with each other. Additionally, the girls’ scores on both the Simon says test and the modified Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test were significantly better than the boys’ scores. For 3- to 4-year-old children, these tasks were a little challenging, but for 4- to 5-year-old children, the tasks were not difficult. From the results, it appears that self-regulation, play, language, and approaches go together at this specific period in children’s lives. Thus, teachers would be well-advised to create lessons, curricula, and activities designed to strengthen these important cognitive traits and behaviors in young children.