Alert and Engaged

Being alert and engaged is the ability to manage and direct one's own feelings, thoughts and emotions. In general, the ability to be 'present' and to exercise self-control.

For children to optimally learn and grow, they need to be able to have a variety of experiences in which they can really 'be in the moment'. In order to be in the moment or 'alert and engaged', children and youth must be able to self-regulate. Self-regulation is the ability to control one's impulses and direct attention to the activity at hand and this process depends on the development of the executive functions. For example, a child may be engaged in a game or play but need to end the play due to other plans in the schedule or a child may have to get ready for bed before having a bedtime snack.

In changing the focus of activities, the child must be able to manage their emotions (e.g., perhaps the disappointment that play time is coming to an end) and shift their attention to the new tasks at hand (e.g., cleaning up, getting ready for bed). Children who are able to self-regulate are better able to develop and use their executive functions to think ahead and plan their next steps while thinking about the consequences (positive or negative) of their choices.

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