A lot of things happen in the brains of young kids. They experience, very early, a strong increase in cognitive skills, which involves self-regulation. But what is self-regulation and why is it so important from the start? According to research fellow Dieuwer ten Braak at the Norvegian Centre for Learning Environment at the University of Stavanger, "Self-regulation is important because we use it for concentrating and solving complex problems, as well as for planning and undertaking tasks."

Kids also need self-regulation for the optimal development of their social skills (when interacting and playing with their peers, for example) and academic skills (learning to read and solve math problems, for example). Dieuwer ten Braak and colleagues examined, in particular, the connection between self-regulation and literacy and numeracy learning when children go from kindergarten to first grade.

The researchers found a strong correlation between math skills and self-regulation, in both directions. Now, they would like to understand the reasons behind this connection and will investigate it. One possible explanation is that, while early literacy (recognizing sounds in words, learning letters, reading, writing, etc.) is about automation, math learning becomes increasingly more complex as things progress, requiring sustained use of our working memory, which is closely related to our self-regulation skills.

Picture: The Children, by Childe Hassam (Cincinnati Art Museum - Wikimedia Commons, w/Effects)