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6 activities to promote Emotional self-regulation in children


Do you worry about your children’s temper tantrums and sudden outbursts of emotions?

As a parent, we all do. But, do you know we can help our children practice emotional regulation with a few simple activities and games? Read on to find how you can use your child’s playtime to teach them to regulate their emotions.


What is emotional self-regulation?

Emotional regulation is a skill that determines how we deal with overwhelming emotions like anger, frustration, anxiety, etc. when we are experiencing them. Emotional regulation is closely related to emotional intelligence. Research shows that people who can regulate their emotions have higher emotional intelligence.


Why is emotional regulation important in early childhood?

Emotional self-regulation helps children to approach solving problems positively. As toddlers, they will not have control over their emotions. Hence, during the early years, kids experience more emotional outbursts in the form of tantrums. They are likely to develop a sense of control over time as they learn to self-regulate their emotions when parents help their children cope with the big feelings.


Children, who practice emotional regulation from their early childhood, can grow into adults who have a healthy attitude towards life. Also, emotional regulation helps students in handling their academics better as they learn to cope with stress and fear during exams.


We are listing a few simple activities and games that you can do/play with your children to assist them in developing emotional regulation.


1. Emotions charade This is a fun family game that will help your child identify emotions. Your child must learn to name the emotions they are feeling, before working on self-regulation.


How to do

  • Take few strips of paper. 

  • Write the name of each emotions/feelings. Eg., Happy, Sad ,Anger etc. 

  • Fold the papers and shake it in a jar. 

  • Each person has to take a paper and without looking at the paper they have to place it on their forehead.

  • Others can give clues through facial expressions for the person to identify the name of the feeling.


2. Dragon breathing

This activity is not only for your children but is also beneficial to adults during overwhelming moments of anger and frustration. Dragon breathing is a mindful breathing technique that helps your child to regulate those negative emotions and releases the stress and tension built up in the body.


How to do

  • Make sure you and your kid are comfortably seated. 

  • Ask your kid to place their hands on the belly. 

  • Breathe out through your nose with a snort while the hands rest on the belly. 

  • Inhale normally. 

  • Repeat the above steps for 3-5 times. Breathe normally after completion.


3. HALT strategy

This activity can be done when you sense your kid is upset . You can help them decode why they are feeling so by asking them the following questions.


Ask your child whether they are feeling the following,

H- Hungry?

A-Angry?

L-Lonely?

T-Tired?


Helping them identify the root cause for their emotions can lead to better regulation of emotions. For younger kids who cannot/are yet to verbalize their needs, you can skip the questioning part and help them name the feelings instead.


Eg., You’re feeling angry because you cannot wear this dress now.


4. Happy wheel chart

This DIY chart helps kids to be aware of the emotions they feel at particular situations. For example, “ How did you feel when you shared the toy with your friend?”


Children also learn that they can experience a multitude of emotions throughout the day.


How to do

  • Take a cardboard and draw a circle. Separate it into different sections

  • Mention different ranges of emotions with emoji for happy, sad, fear and angry etc., in each section.

  • Take a piece of sticky paper and write your child’s name on it.

  • Ask your child how they are feeling describing the events of the day and stick the name label on the emotion they felt.


5. Freeze dance

Freeze dance is a very effective and fun activity that helps with emotional self-regulation. You can hop into the game along with your kids to have a great screen free family time.


How to do

  • One person can take control of the music playing.

  • Once the music starts to play, children can dance.

  • When the music stopped, everyone has to freeze in their current dance positions until the music starts to play again.


Apart from the above activities, you can also indulge your kids in a hobby they like. Arts, music, and dance can be a great distraction and a medium to release and express emotions. As parents, you’re their primary teacher and a role model, especially in learning life skills like emotional regulation.


“As little people experience big emotions, it’s our job to share the calm” –L.r. Knost

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