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Online course addresses early childhood success

New course helps teachers, parents teach self-regulation skills

The College of Public Health and Human Sciences has launched an online course for educational professionals, teachers and those working with young children. The course – Red Light, Purple Light: A Self-Regulation Intervention Program ­– incorporates a series of evidence-based music- and movement-based games that can be used to promote young children’s self-regulation at home and at school.

“Self-control and self-regulation issues, no matter where I go around the country and world, are the top things teachers and school administrators face,” says Megan McClelland, the Katherine E. Smith Healthy Children and Families Professor in Human Development and Family Sciences in Oregon State’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences. “I hear about behavior issues associated with children coming into school ill-prepared to navigate more structured classroom settings. They can’t learn when they can’t focus.”

This online, self-paced course provides early childhood practitioners, teachers and parents with methods to help 3- to 8-year-olds build self-regulation skills.

“The games in this intervention come from traditional children’s games, but each with a twist to focus on the self-regulation pieces that help children practice and hone in on those skills,” says Shauna Tominey, assistant professor of practice and parenting education specialist.

Shauna says one goal of the Red Light, Purple Light Intervention is to get children to a point where they can stop and make a choice, rather than act on impulse.

Megan, a nationally recognized expert in child development agrees. “The intervention really helps children exercise the part of the brain that’s involved in planning, thinking and self-control.”

After Megan and Shauna’s book “Stop, Think, Act: Integrating Self-Regulation in the Early Childhood Classroom” was published, they started receiving a significant number of requests for in-person trainings. The online course and training manual were developed to accompany the book so the intervention could be shared on a larger scale.

“Going through the course, you get a great foundation for understanding the research on self-regulation and why these skills are important,” Shauna says. “You also learn hands-on ways to help children practice and develop these skills.”

Megan says parents tell her the games give them something to do with their child after dinner that’s not screen time, and teachers report children request the games despite the tricky rules. For her, these are major wins.

Their intervention is also gaining popularity on the national and international scales. With growing research evidence supporting the effectiveness of the intervention, numerous school districts in Oregon are integrating it into their early childhood programs. A school district in Virginia uses the intervention during its summer programming, and it has been incorporated into a large early childhood intervention in Norway. Megan and Shauna recently presented remotely to a group of early-childhood practitioners in New Zealand who are now using the games.

“We’ve found if you play the games with children regularly, it significantly improves aspects of their readiness for school,” Megan says. “The games are meant to be fun and engaging, but also boost early learning skills.”

The course is publically available. Upon completion of this course, participants will receive a certificate for 6 hours of professional development training from Oregon State University. This course qualifies as a Set 1 training with the Oregon Registry (ORO) and can be applied to ORO Core Knowledge categories: Understanding & Guiding Behavior (UGB) and Learning Environments and Curriculum (LEC). In addition, this course aligns with OPEC Parenting Educator Core Knowledge & Skills category: Human Growth & Development.