10 effective emotional regulation activities for kids

By Katherine Ellison on Jun 16, 2024.

Fact Checked by Ericka Pingol.

Get Carepatron Free

The science of emotional regulation

Therapeutically treating child patients can be tricky, even regarding emotion regulation, which is natural for adults. Scientifically, however, emotion regulation is not something we are born with—it is something we learn. Parents should teach their children how to regulate their emotions healthily from an early age so children can effectively continue their development.

A child's ability to regulate their emotions significantly impacts friends, family, and, of course, themselves. Without this control, children can develop anger management issues or other emotion-related problems further down the track. In this guide, we'll explain emotion regulation more deeply before providing ten useful and effective activities to help kids regulate their feelings.

Click here to view on YouTube

Overview of emotional regulation for kids

Emotional regulation refers to recognizing, understanding, and managing one's feelings. When children can regulate their emotions, they will be much more able to handle difficult situations and act resiliently when faced with challenges. Children with strong emotional regulation skills can  reduce the frequency of them becoming overwhelmed or upset, improving their ability to feel calm and in control. Emotional regulation can be taught in different ways, and admittedly, it can be a difficult task for children, considering the limitations of their vocabulary and the challenges they sometimes have with expressing their needs.

Parents often teach self-regulation to their children by helping them understand the names of specific emotions and encouraging them to explain their feelings. However, treatment may be a good solution for children who are experiencing developmental issues or have been diagnosed with a disorder that impacts their ability to express and regulate emotions (including autism spectrum disorder). 

Importance of emotional regulation skills for kids

Self-regulation strategies and other critical components of social, physical, and psychological development are essential skills to learn from a young age. In addition to the effects we mentioned above, having these skills also significantly impacts the child's future development, as effective emotional regulation can result in better problem-solving ability and improved communication.

Children will learn how to set boundaries and, by doing so, establish strong relationships with the people in their lives. Importantly, emotional self-regulation allows children to manage stress and anxiety in a healthy way, which can reduce the likelihood of developing adverse mental health disorders sometime in the future.

A child's healthy development is multifaceted, but you mustn't undermine the importance of emotional regulation. If your child struggles to recognize, understand, or manage their emotions, engaging them in specific activities may be a good option. These activities encourage children to develop healthy coping skills, figure out the best ways to manage their feelings, and communicate these to the people in their lives. This stage is essential for child development and teaches them self-awareness, especially during challenging situations.

10 effective emotional regulation activities for kids

So, how exactly do emotional regulation activities work? You can choose from plenty of different tasks to develop self-regulation in children. We've compiled a list of ten self-regulation activities that we think are the most effective:

1. Allow kids to take the lead

Letting children take the lead when teaching them emotional regulation is essential. They should be able to express their emotions rather than suppress them; your role facilitates this openness. Encourage children to feel their feelings and talk about them if they know how, and try your hardest not to invalidate or minimize their emotional responses and experiences. Gradually, this will help them develop healthy ways to manage when faced with different emotions.

2. Use camel pose to relieve pent-up emotion

Physical exercises, like yoga, can be handy tools for releasing pent-up emotions when feeling stressed. The camel pose encourages children to bend backward and open their chests toward the sky, releasing negative energy and reducing stress.

3. Learn to HALT

HALT is an acronym (Hungry, Anger, Lonely, and Tired) that can help prevent emotional outbursts from occurring. It would be best to teach the child in question this acronym and ask them to run through it whenever they feel a big emotion. They may discover that their frustration or annoyance is instead due to being hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, and they can then communicate this to others.

4. Use guided breathing

Guided breathing encourages children to visualize the inhalation and exhalation of their breath. It can help center individuals in the present and begin understanding how self-regulation works.

5. Drawing emotions

Children sometimes struggle to name their feelings due to a limited vocabulary and experience managing emotional experiences. To help them communicate their feelings, you can ask them to draw their emotions or make a collage using different materials. When they have finished, they can explain the drawing to you, and from here, they will be much more capable of naming and explaining their feelings. 

6. Breathing and mindful exercises

Deep breathing exercises are a fantastic way to calm down, allowing people to focus on the present. Teaching children basic breathing exercises can help prevent emotional outbursts and deescalate potentially harmful behavior. Practicing mindful breathing helps children gain emotional control and minimize the risk of becoming overwhelmed.

7. Yoga and physical exercises

The camel pose is not the only yoga movement that benefits emotional regulation – in fact, all forms of physical exercise can be advantageous. Exercise reduces stress hormones, improves mood, and increases energy levels. These positive side effects will help with children's general well-being, reducing the likelihood of negative emotional outbursts.

8. Mindful body scan

A mindful body scan requires the child to either sit or lie down. Starting from the top of their head, they should tense their muscles and pay attention to the sensations they experience. Moving downwards from there, they should scan the whole way down their body until they reach their toes. If they have a sensation that feels unusual, this is fine.

Please encourage them to move their body in whatever feels right and explain their sensations afterward. Encouraging the child to focus on breathing mindfully as they complete the body scan is also a good idea.

9. Teaching and practicing self-care

Other than coping strategies, self-care is often associated with being an adult, but it can be just as beneficial for children. It would be best to encourage children to engage in self-care activities routinely. These include exercising, bathing, reading, playing with a pet, or drawing/painting. Participating in activities we enjoy can help improve our mood and reduce our stress levels, thus regulating our emotions effectively.

10. Learning a new hobby

Just as with practicing self-care, learning a new hobby can be an effective way to improve a child's mood and general well-being. Encouraging children to try something new, whether this is a sport, game, or instrument, will help boost their self-esteem and feelings of confidence.


Teaching children self-regulation skills to help them healthily understand their emotions can be difficult. Because of their limited vocabulary, children often struggle to explain their feelings. Regardless, there are some beneficial activities you can employ that will encourage children to self-regulate positively and meaningfully.

Understandably, children will have different needs when managing their emotions, and it is your responsibility to cater to these differences. Ask children questions, encourage them to open up about their feelings, and ensure you are always empathetic, open-minded, and responsive to their needs.

Therapy practice management software

Further Reading:

Join 10,000+ teams using Carepatron to be more productive

One app for all your healthcare work