Building On… Anger Management Skills in Kids


By: Nicole Leuci Gilmer

Anger is a natural emotion that can be all encompassing, overwhelming, and, well, hard to reign in. Considering many adults find it difficult to express their anger and other big feelings in a healthy, productive manner, it is no wonder that these same feelings are amplified in young minds and can lead to outbursts. It is common for toddlers and other younger children to have multiple “temper tantrums” as their minds are learning to regulate these strong feelings.

However, when left unchecked, these outbursts can lead to the child struggling to differentiate feelings of anger from aggressive impulses, like yelling or hitting.  Sometimes, these nonideal behaviors stem from other feelings that get confused and grouped in with anger, like embarrassment or disappointment.

In the 21st century, it is no question that dedicated, unstructured play time is vital to a child’s development, however, many overlook the various teaching opportunities that it provides. As a parent or educator who may be struggling to help a child develop the skills to hone in their angry outbursts, lessons taught through play scenarios are a likely way to get them to understand the foundation of this vital life skill.

Understanding Anger in Children

Before we delve into the play strategies for teaching anger management skills, it’s important to understand why young children get angry in the first place. Anger is a natural emotion that all individuals experience, regardless of age. However, for young children, expressing anger can be challenging as they are still learning to regulate their emotions.

There are various reasons why young children might get angry, including frustration, powerlessness, feeling misunderstood, or even being hungry. It’s crucial for guardians to recognize these triggers and help children navigate their emotions effectively.

By understanding the underlying causes of anger in children, we can create an environment that supports their emotional well-being and helps them develop healthy coping mechanisms.

Benefits of Play and Strategies for Managing Anger

Unstructured play allows children an outlet for self-expression and experience a variety of emotions, leading to a deeper understanding as they process situations and replicate scenarios. This dedicated free-play time is also a great way for children to learn how to manage their anger in a constructive manner as they run through these situations and the perceived consequences.

As important as play is for a child’s development, it can be especially beneficial when it comes to emotional regulation and anger management. Playing with toys, such as blocks or stuffed animals, can aid in teaching healthy techniques for dealing with their emotions and managing stress. Building, stacking, and knocking down objects during play helps relieve tension and teach constructive anger management techniques. Engaging in play encourages creative exploration and helps children safely work through unresolved issues.

Furthermore, role-play is a valuable tool for children to navigate triggers and understand their emotions. By acting out different scenarios, they can identify triggers, understand their emotions, and find appropriate responses.

Another method would be to encourage the child to project their anger onto a puppet or stuffed animal. They can express their emotions through the puppet’s actions and speech, relieving their anger in a safe and non-threatening manner.

By implementing these strategies, parents and educators can help young children develop effective anger management skills while also fostering their creativity and emotional well-being through play.

Tips for Parents and Caregivers

The best way to teach young children how to deal with their big feelings is by the adults around them modeling appropriate emotional regulation and responses. Adults should strive to create a safe and supportive environment where children feel comfortable expressing their emotions and exploring different coping strategies.

By providing them with guided opportunities to explore and express their anger, we can help them develop healthy coping mechanisms and learn how to manage their emotions in a constructive way.

During play-based activities, adults should actively observe and engage with children, offering guidance and encouragement when needed. Ask open-ended questions to stimulate conversation and reflection, such as “How did that make you feel?” or “What could you have done differently?” Hold a discussion or demonstrate through role-play healthy ways to handle frustration or disappointment.

When children feel heard and understood, they are more likely to develop healthy ways of managing their anger. Furthermore, active listening enables adults to identify any underlying issues or triggers that may be causing the child’s anger. By addressing these concerns, adults can help children develop the appropriate coping mechanisms.

Finally, teaching children to recognize and label their feelings is essential for effective anger management and processing.


Through play, children can explore their feelings and thoughts, developing self-awareness and emotional intelligence. As adults actively listen and validate their experiences, children gain the tools to manage their anger in healthy and constructive ways.

By addressing underlying issues and triggers, adults can help children develop effective coping strategies and problem-solving skills. The power of play lies in its ability to engage children in a fun and interactive manner, making the learning process enjoyable.

Let us continue to foster a supportive and nurturing environment that encourages play and promotes emotional growth in our young ones. BUILD ON!