Tools of the Mind is designed to support the development of both cognitive and social-emotion self-regulation/executive functions, which research has associated with both short- and long-term results across a number of different areas of child development and learning.

In order to be successful in school and beyond, a child has to develop social and cognitive competencies that allow him or her (1) to become a deliberate, self-regulated learner who is capable of establishing adequate social relationships with other participants in the teaching and learning process, and (2) to adopt the specific position and role of “student.” This position/role is characterized by such things as having an interest in the very process of learning, understanding the standard by which one is judged “correct,” understanding the relationship between making an effort to learn and the outcome of any given learning task, a willingness to play by school rules, a readiness to follow the teacher’s directions, and so on.

At the preschool level of Tools of the Mind, Play Planning is an instructional strategy used to promote the development of self-regulation. Children plan their play every day, right before they start playing in the centers. A Play Plan usually describes the role and the actions a child will engage in during the first few minutes of play. This initial plan helps children to act purposefully. Play Plans can be also used by a teacher or by the children themselves to resolve arguments occurring over the choice of roles or the use of play props. Children often modify and change their plans as they play with each other during center time.