7 Simple Emotional Regulation Activities For Kids

For many young children, learning to control and express their emotions can be a difficult task. Luckily, there are easy emotional regulation activities that you and your little ones can do at home to make this process a little less challenging!

What is Emotional Regulation?

Emotional regulation is essentially the ability to recognize and control one’s thoughts, emotions, and feelings in a healthy manner.

This is an extremely important skill because our emotions are what drive our behavior. Children who have difficulty understanding and controlling their feelings may end up lashing out at both peers and adults simply out of frustration.

The good news is that simple home activities can help young children learn and develop their emotional regulation skills.

Importance of Emotional Regulation

Being able to properly regulate emotions and feelings is a school-readiness skill that children should be learning before entering kindergarten.

Emotional regulation skills for kids include controlling one’s behaviors, showing independence, understanding limits and expectations, and forming relationships.

Research studies have repeatedly found that children who can effectively manage their emotions perform better academically and have better relationships.

One major research study found that kindergarteners who have good emotional regulation skills score higher on early math and early reading assessments, have better relationships with their teachers, and are more productive in the classroom.

7 Easy Emotional Regulation Activities

The best way to develop these skills is to start early! Try implementing these simple emotional regulation activities at home to help your child succeed both in and out of the classroom.

1. Sensory Play

One of the biggest benefits of sensory play is that it can be used as a tool to regulate a child’s behavior. Sensory play has the ability to calm a child who is over-stimulated or arouse an under-stimulated child.

One children’s hospital in Ohio found that after implementing a pre-surgery sensory room for kids, the hospital’s use of pre-operative calming medications dropped from 90% to 20%. This shows the power of sensory experiences on children suffering from fear or anxiety.

Sensory play also teaches children about limits and expectations. Since sensory play can sometimes get a little messy, children must learn to keep the materials within the designated play area. This is a great way to help kids develop and practice their self-control skills.

2. Reading

Reading to children has two major benefits when it comes to emotional regulation.

The first advantage is that children build an incredible vocabulary by reading books. The bigger their vocabulary, the better they can express their feelings and emotions. This in turn leads to more effective communication and less frustration for both the adult and the child.

Reading also allows children to see emotions from a different perspective. They learn that other people have the same feelings as themselves and they can see how the characters in the books deal with these different emotions.

3. Board Games

Board games are a great way to encourage children to learn important life skills.

Fun games like Chutes and Ladders or Candyland teach children about taking turns, following directions, communicating, and even how to cope with losing. Since these two games are simply won out of luck, children have an easier time learning how to cope when they do not win.

This is also a great time for parents to model good behavior. When children see adults either winning or losing in a calm manner, children will imitate this behavior and learn how to react appropriately.

4. Group Games

Group games are another great way to teach children about emotional regulation. Similar to board games, games played in a group setting teach children how to follow rules, collaborate with others, and learn how to win or lose using appropriate behaviors.

Group games also help children learn how to rely on one another for support which is an important life skill when it comes to managing emotions.

A simple game that can be used to teach emotions is Simon Says. You can use prompts like ”Simon Says show me your happy face” or ”Simon Says to show some kindness and hug the person next to you”.

5. Pretend Play

Pretend play is a unique way to help children learn about and practice emotional regulation.

When children enter into a role during this type of play, they need to imagine and act out the emotional perspective of that particular role. If they are playing with others, the children also need to understand and respond appropriately to others’ emotions and feelings.

A research study posted in ScienceDirect found that children whose school implemented a pretend-play-based program had better emotional comprehension and decreased aggressive behavioral responses. This shows the powerful impact pretend play has on emotional regulation.

6. Arts and Crafts

Creative arts can be used as a tool to help children cope with their feelings and learn about different emotions.

Research shows that just 5 minutes of free drawing can distract a child from their negative emotions and help improve their short-term moods. This is a healthy way to teach children how to actively manage negative emotions.

When art is guided by an adult, children can learn a lot about emotional regulation. Whether the kids are making kindness jars, or drawing people with different facial expressions, the opportunities to teach are endless.

7. Emotions Charades

I love this game because it helps children practice expressing and identifying the different feelings and emotions.

First, write out different emotions on little slips of paper. Use basic emotions like happy, sad, excited, scared, angry, etc., and place those slips of paper into a bowl.

Next, have 1-2 kids pick a slip of paper and have them act out the emotion without using oral language. Have the remaining kids guess the emotion.

Finally, once they have guessed correctly, have an open discussion about that particular emotion. If the children were acting our sadness, ask the other kids what they could have done to make that child feel better.

This is such an amazing game that can be used with kids of all different ages.

Tips For Success During Emotional Regulation Activities

Learning how to effectively regulate emotions is a skill that has a major learning curve to it. It takes time and patience so here are some tips for success when doing emotional regulation activities with your little ones.

1. Set a good example

It is super important for parents and caregivers to show regulated responses rather than impulsive reactions. When children see adults tend to situations calmly and appropriately, they will be more prone to copy this type of behavior.

2. Manage your expectations

While these activities can help your child develop the skill of emotional regulation, at the end of the day they are still kids.

Readjust your expectations if needed and try to remember that kids’ brains are not fully developed yet and they will still show feelings of frustration and impulsivity. Try to remain calm and talk through their emotions together.

3. Talk about emotions with your kids

The last piece of advice we are going to give you is to talk to your children as much as you can about different feelings.

Practice makes perfect and the more they learn and practice, the better their emotional regulation skills will be.

Try using these different emotional regulation activities to help your child gain the skills they need to succeed both in and out of the classroom.


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