6 Creative Ways To Help Children Deal with Anger

6 Creative Ways To Help Children Deal with Anger

Anger is one complex emotion. Anger comes from feelings of frustration, sadness, displeasure, irritation and a host of other feelings jumbled together.  The thing is, anger gets a bad reputation;  it’s just not nice to be angry… Especially children are expected to not get angry, but really anger should not be ignored, forgotten or squashed deep down.

angry child

Festering anger can lead to a host of difficulties like sleep problems, headaches, moodiness and low-self-esteem. Learning to deal with our anger as well as helping our children learn to recognize, accept and process their anger is very healthy.

Having healthy outlets to explore and release the feelings is a great way for children to build emotional intelligence.  Below are 6 ways to encourage children to deal with pent up anger and discover feelings through creativity and play. 

These games are not intended to substitute how you support your child in the middle of an aggressive fit of anger. They are intended as tools for children and parents to explore anger and learn alternative coping ways. 

SPLAT!: Gather up some wet sponges, or fill water balloons. Choose a place that can safely become wet like the lawn, shower stall or the bath tub. Throw sponges/balloons against the ground/wall and encourage your child to say something that bothers them with each throw. A child may say “It made me angry when I had to stop painting and eat lunch” SPLAT!  “It made me so mad that I had to share my snack with Johnny.” SPLAT!   This is a powerful activity for times when angry feelings have become pent up and need some releasing.  Play can be started just for the sake of throwing and then eventually move into talking about feelings.

Angry art: Give children some art supplies like paint, crayons or markers and encourage them to create art with their feelings. “Let’s draw like the crayon is happy. Now let’s draw like the crayon is sad…mad…angry” and so on.  The art may turn out to be a specific picture which you can then talk about or just angry scribbles – either way the idea is just to give a chance to put some feelings onto paper.

Rolling Out Anger: If you have access to a grassy lawn, rolling in grass can be incredibly grounding and calming.  Encourage children to say something that they are angry about and then have them “roll” out the anger onto the lawn.  Children usually end up enjoying the rolling so much they can soon move on from feeling anger into a lot of laughter which is often very healing.

Pillow fight: This is a classic, but it can be such a wonderful release for children to hit mom/dad with a fully pillow. It makes children feel powerful and confident, especially if mom/dad tumbles down or waves the pillow case in defeat 😉  It’s helpful to set some ground rules before playing like no tackling, no hitting with pillows on the face and everyone should respect the word “Stop”.

Pounding play-dough: Most children love tinkering with play-dough but this game goes beyond sculpting, cutting and modeling clay. Pounding play-dough is about really smashing, throwing and pounding a big chunk of play-dough while being encouraged to vent any frustrations or angry feelings. A final step to finish the process is to after pounding out the anger, encouraging your child to re-shape the play-dough into a shape or sculpture that makes them feel happy again. It’s a  great exercise in moving through feelings and then moving forward!

Animal Breaths: The way we breathe has an incredible impact on how we are processing our surroundings. When a child is feeling angry, if we can help them breathe through their thoughts, it can be incredibly grounding, empowering and eventually calming.  A giant Lions breath with roaring included is a great way for children to release anger. Short, shallow bunny breaths can help children focus again and long snake like slithering breaths are very calming.

During these games, don’t worry about solving any problems or offering solutions in that moment, a simple “I hear you” or “would you like to share anything else” can keep the communication open. There may be some tears, laughter and a host of other feelings to go through…try to simply be present and acknowledge the feelings and words your child is sharing and gently guide your child through the activity.

Does your child get angry? How do you support your child in dealing with anger and other big feelings?

Peace & Be Well,


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Ariadne is a happy and busy mama to three children. She practices peaceful, playful, responsive parenting and is passionate about all things parenting and chocolate. Ariadne has a Masters in Psychology and is a certified Positive Discipline Parenting Educator. She lives on top of a beautiful mountain with her family, and one cuddly dog.

13 Responses to 6 Creative Ways To Help Children Deal with Anger

  1. I love these ideas for when we are at home, and to give as suggestions to my clients. My questions are, however: 1) How do you suggest teaching children to handle their anger constructively and respectfully when not at home (i.e. store, family members’ home, school, etc.)?; 2) Is this just pushing something under the rug vs. dealing with the child’s true emotions?; 3) What if you don’t have time to incorporate these fun activities in the moment? (i.e. driving, needing to go to school, time for dinner, at a store); and 4) What if the child still doesn’t get his way after the anger is gone and he becomes angry again and begins to yell/scream/throw a fit?
    Thank you so much! I can’t wait to try some of these ideas with my 7 year old (whom struggles with dealing with anger constructively).–Amy

  2. I could be wrong but I think that most of these idea are for use before the child gets angry. To help them later deal better with the emotion in the moment. I don’t know about you but when my son is in angry tantrum mode there is nothing that seems to help in the moment until he has calmed down some. So these are some great ideas for helping after or before the child is angry, but most won’t work in the moment. Except maybe the animal breathing one but I know my son needs to calm down before he even hears me suggest anything, he just says no if I say anything when he’s that upset.

  3. These games sound wonderful! I will definitely give them a try with my little women. I have been struggling for years with my 8 yr-old and her intense anger and I think this will help. I think I may enjoy the “angry art” myself! 🙂 I have found that the more I deal with my own anger, the easier it is to help my girls deal with their emotions with out “catching on fire” myself.

  4. Hi Amy,
    Chances are for many children a lot of anger outside of home can be reduced if children are having the opportunity to release anger at home on a regular basis, so doing some of these activities can really help… that being said, yes, the way we deal at home may at times be different than out and about, some tools for out and about would be using reflective listening (post on that coming on friday!) making observation and asking non threatning questions like “it seems like you are really angry right now. Can I help you in some way?” being pro-active is also a great tool, setting expectations up ahead of time. On the issue of time, I hear you completely, leave it for those tantrums to show up right when it’s time to get out the door! If that happens here, I tend to say something kind but firm like “I know this is not what you want to do right now, but we cannot be late. I will make time to talk to you after we …” and then I make sure to follow up when we do have the time, to really connect and listen and offer an outlet for that anger. does that help?

  5. Krisha,
    Sometimes it’s possible to catch that anger and deal with it before it escalates into a full tantrum…sometimes not so much 😉 I find that introducing these games at a less than explosive time is really helpful because overtime children prefer to deal with their anger in these creative ways and often because of that have less giant meltdowns. Basically the positive memory of a pillow fight for example is enough to have a child choose that again instead of something else. Sometimes just giving a child space, being near enough for comfort/connection but far enough for safety is the way to go… often after the storm has passed, something like the play-dough or pillow fighting can really help a child come full circle!

  6. LOVE this. Totally my kind of approach, too – and love these practical, creative ideas. There are definitely some I could add to my repertoire, here. Thanks,

  7. Actually the pounding and fighting suggestions aren’t a good idea, as they teach the child to act on his feelings, rather than to process them. Teaching your child to pounce on a pillow when he’s angry will ultimately teach him to pounce… And what happens next time when there is no pillow.
    It does seem like a quick and ‘gentle’ fix, but it still isn’t a solution.

    Anger isn’t that big an issue. It’s JUST an emotion, just like al the others. We need to hand our children the tools to work through the emotions instead of act upon them.

  8. Laura, I understand your point of view but these games are intended for children and parents to find a way to deal with pent up anger and explore it together in playful and safe ways. These games are not intended for children to play in just the middle of a tantrum or fit of screams, unless a child has had experience already with alternative ways of expressing their anger, in such a case, offering them a game as a release can be in my experience very helpful. I did not suggest that a child pounce on a pillow, but rather PLAY a pillow fight with mom or dad, this leads back to connection with the parent, feelings being released and a child feeling listened too. When emotions are tended to, as parents we can guide children to learn to choose new coping ways, building new memories of how they choose to act upon the feelings of anger. At a young age, acting out feelings is an authentic and genuine path for children, they simply need guidance on how to proceed in ways that are socially acceptable, mashing playdough and expressing how much they hated sharing a toy for example as opposed to throwing the toy on their friends head.

  9. These are great ideas. My children naturally adopted the ‘crocodile breath’ idea from a book called “Frog’s Breathtaking Speech”. One of my twin boys (he’s 6), in particular, has found this HUGELY helpful. Sometimes, in the car, if one of his siblings says something to him that, in the past, would have made him flare up, now I just hear him change his breathing and not react. I’m so proud of him! Still got a way to go with it, of course, especially if he’s hungry (see http://thelovingparent.com/toby-gets-mad-when-hes-hungry/) but we’ve seen massive improvements. Thanks so much for this! xx

  10. Thank u for this post. my 3 yo son has been dealing with the range of emotions lately from whining and crying to definetly telling us “no mommy!”. nothing seems to work. and there have been days lately where he will whine and carry on for close to an hour and we really don’t know why. our marriage is very rocky and I’m worried this is my sons reaction to our stress. we could really use some additional advice on how to handle this. thank you

  11. What should I do when my four year old gets angry because he didn’t get his way and he storms off? I usually chase him and try to comfort him or understand what exactly angered him or hurt his feelings. If he doesn’t want to talk or chooses to be determined about the thing he can’t have or do, I try offering to let him hit some gold balls with his clubs or throw a ball outside but he usually directs his anger at me since I’m the one that set the limit so then he refuses to participate in anything I suggest. I’m a single momma FYI

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