In Tools of the Mind, children develop, express and represent their play intentions through play planning. They take turns choosing roles, describing what they are going to do when they play, and then recording their plans on paper through drawing and writing. Children work at their own levels and are encouraged to add details to their drawings, use lines to represent the words in their written messages, and use the Tools of theMind Sound Map to write letters representing the sounds in the words. Play Planning, then, involves the child “thinking before acting.” It supports the development of self-regulation skills because children plan prior to acting – a process that eventually helps them to monitor their actions and inhibit inappropriate actions. The Play Plan is also the first contextually relevant literacy experience for the children. It is the mechanism for teaching reading and writing skills, such as the concept of word, phonemic awareness, letter-sound correspondence, phonemic segmentation, and the use of written speech to convey a message to others.
Tools of the Mind emphasizes the development of “mature intentional make-believe play.” To help young children develop self-regulation, having them engage in this kind of play is critical. Play is the only classroom activity that naturally provides children with three types of interactions leading to self-regulation – i.e., regulation by others, regulation of others, and self-regulation. In intentional dramatic play, children agree together to play a specific scenario and learn to negotiate and compromise, at times agreeing to follow what another child wants, while at other times, regulating others and directing the play. Throughout the play, a child also has to utilize self-regulation and voluntarily restrict his/her actions in order to remain in the play.
Besides make-believe play, Tools of the Mind emphasizes embedding self-regulation in multiple activities. Positive child-child interactions are nurtured through activities, such as Name Games and Buddy Reading. Movement activities, such as Freeze Dance and Graphic Practice, promote self-regulation through developing a child’s ability to start-stop-start movement sequences. Finally, Attention Focusing Activities are used to gain children’s attention and participation and involve fingerplays, songs, and Do What I Do games.