ENGAGE develops children’s self-regulation skills through intentional play – with skills and games grouped into three domains: emotional (feeling), cognitive (thinking) and behavioural (doing). ENGAGE games are played for approximately 30 minutes a day, with an intentional focus on supporting children to develop specific skills that they need to thrive at school and lead healthy, fulfilling lives.

We are currently implementing the ENGAGE self-regulation initiative to children aged 3 – 7 via early childhood centres (ECEs) and primary schools in Auckland. ENGAGE was initially developed by Associate Professor Dione Healey (University of Otago), and our current work with ENGAGE in ECEs and schools is an ongoing partnership between MMS, Dione Healey, and our colleagues at Emotional Regulation Aotearoa New Zealand (ERANZ).

In research trials with a diverse range of whānau and ECE participants, ENGAGE has demonstrated statistically significant improvements in children’s self-regulation skills, including reductions in hyperactivity, aggression and peer problems, and improvements in attention, effortful control and emotional regulation – with gains maintained for extended periods post-intervention.

ENGAGE is a highly-scalable, culturally responsive, low-cost approach to supporting self-regulation that has been designed specifically for New Zealand ECE and primary school settings. ENGAGE is delivered by a team of trained facilitators with considerable experience as front line ECE and primary school teachers, and specialist learning support providers.

Implementing ENGAGE in ECE and primary school includes:

  • Interactive training workshops for teachers
  • Access to ENGAGE games and resources
  • Classroom coaching visits and ongoing support from ENGAGE facilitators (as needed)
  • Ongoing professional development and train-the-trainer opportunities, and networking with other ECEs and schools delivering ENGAGE

What is Self-Regulation?

Self-regulation skills help us manage our emotions, thoughts and behaviours – our feeling, thinking and doing skills.

Self-regulation skills help children and adults perform important tasks every day, including; remembering instructions, Ignoring distractions, juggling multiple tasks at once, sticking at difficult or frustrating tasks, resisting the temptation to do something that might not be good for us, waiting for rewards, taking turns, working well with others, recognising and managing our feelings, dealing with difficult emotions (anger, fear, anxiety, frustration etc), and more.

Developing self-regulation skills in the early years of life is now widely understood to be one of the most important interventions for societal wellbeing – with major impacts on a wide range of childhood, youth and adult life outcomes, including; physical health, mental health, education, employment, criminality, substance use, and future parenting outcomes.

Children exposed to high levels of stress, deprivation and trauma in the early years of life typically underperform in these critical self-regulation skills, however – these children also benefit the most from effective, play-based interventions.

For more information on ENGAGE, please visit www.engageplay.co.nz.