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Inside: Try this easy self-regulation activity for kids to teach them how to manage strong emotions better and use calming strategies when they feel angry, worried, or upset.
Self-regulation is one of the most important skills we can teach our children because it’s something that will impact their whole lives.
Having the ability to manage their emotions in a healthy way makes it easier for kids to listen and to interact calmly with other people, even when things don’t go the way they want.
In the long run, good self-regulation skills help kids develop better relationships with the people around them, have higher self-esteem, and achieve more academic success.
As parents, we all want our kids to be able to control their emotions and behaviors when they feel overwhelmed, but developing emotional regulation takes time and practice.
One of the most effective ways to help kids develop self-regulation skills is by encouraging them to talk about their emotions and teaching them better ways to react when they face challenging situations.
The problem is that it’s not always easy to get kids to open up and talk about their feelings and struggles.
When this happens with my son, I always try to find a new way to approach this topic with him in a playful way.
I want to make it easy for him to talk about different situations he finds difficult to handle. And I also want to start more conversations about the calming strategies he can use when he feels overwhelmed.
This is how some time ago, I came up with an easy activity idea that turned out to be a big success, and I want to share it with you!
Emotions superhero: An easy activity that teaches kids how to manage their emotions better
This activity is an easy way to talk to kids about different real-life scenarios in a playful way and inspire them to learn better ways to manage their own behavior.
To make the activity fun for my son, I used role-play to start conversations about challenging situations, strong emotions, and calming strategies.
Here is how I prepared this activity:
- On a piece of paper, I wrote 3 questions to use during the role play and added a special place for our “super power badges”.
- I used small paper circles to write different calming strategies kids can use when feeling overwhelmed and placed them in the special place on the paper. (My son was already familiar with all these strategies because we use them in our calm down box.)
- I also created 4 emotion faces to help us identify how kids might feel in different situations (upset, worried, angry, sad).
- I used a set of wooden dolls for the role play to have different characters we could use during the activity. (You can use stuffed animals or toy animals as well.)
At the beginning of the activity, the child is an “emotions superhero” who needs to help the dolls handle challenging situations. The parent uses the dolls to start conversations with the “superhero”.
The “emotions superhero” starts asking the three questions on the paper:
- “What happened?” – The parent tells a story of a situation when the doll felt overwhelmed by emotions. (e.g, “I was playing with my LEGOs and built a big tower, but then my baby brother came and destroyed it. All the pieces were on the floor, and all my hard work was gone!”)
- “How do you feel?” – The parent describes how the doll feels about what happened. Using a language similar to what a child would use to describe the situation makes the role play more relatable for the kids. (e.g, “I am sad that my tower is broken. And I’m very angry that my brother did that! I don’t want to play with him ever again!”)
- “How can I help?” – This is when the parent asks for help from the superhero. (e.g, “I don’t know what to do to calm down! I feel so angry, and I want my brother to know that he did was wrong!”)
This is when the child (who is the “emotions superhero”) helps the doll with some advice. First, the child can use the emotion faces to describe how the doll feels.
Then they can come up with an idea on how the doll could approach the situation. (e.g, “You can talk with your mom about how you feel about what your brother did and take some time to calm down. Then you can draw a sign to teach your brother that he is not allowed to destroy your tower.”)
They can also offer one of the “super power badges” to the doll to suggest a calming strategy that would work for that situation (e.g, offer the “talk with someone” badge to encourage the doll to talk about what happened). This will not apply to all situations, but it is very helpful to use the badges when applicable to teach kids about all these calming strategies.
The play continues with the parent using another doll to describe a different scenario and ask for help from the “emotions superhero”.
After doing this a few times, you can switch roles and let the child use the dolls to describe different scenarios.
The parent will be the “emotions superhero” and ask the questions, and the child will use the dolls to talk about different challenging situations.
This is a great opportunity to discover what situations your child finds difficult to handle. The fact that the child uses the doll to describe the situation makes it easier for them to open up about what they feel.
The role-play provides you a great opportunity to either mention situations you know your child is facing in real life (using the dolls) or provide solutions and calming strategies for the situations your child comes up with.
If you need more inspiration to help you create the scenarios, here are some ideas you can use during this activity:
- situations that happen between siblings: not sharing toys, hitting, using mean words
- situations that happen at school or at the playground: aggressive behavior, bullying, not having friends to play with, taking turns, fights with friends
- situations that happen at home: bedtime battles, frustrations about homework, not being able to do something they want
- other situations: not getting a toy they want at the store, dealing with disappointment, tantrums, dealing with a big change.
My son enjoyed this activity a lot, and I feel like it brought us closer because I learned more about his feelings and the situations that make him feel sad, angry, or worried.
If you are looking for a way to start meaningful conversations about emotions with your kids in a fun and playful way, I encourage you to try this activity!
It’s very easy to prepare, and it provides a lot of opportunities for kids to learn how to manage challenging situations better.
I hope you and your kids will enjoy it as much as we did!
More resources for teaching kids about emotions: