How to Teach Your 2-year-old to Regulate Their Emotions

There seems to be no rhyme or reason for the many tantrums I witness on a daily basis. I’m sure most of you mommas and daddies out there can relate! The “terrible twos” are in full force in the Hodges abode. Feet are kicking and stomping. Voices are raising and screaming. And boundaries are being pushed out of frustration from the endless reminders to share all the toys! It’s madness!

I have learned SO MUCH about emotional regulation from my years in college, being a momma and my experience with children with special needs. Some of these tips, tricks and exercises you probably have heard of before but I have some fun twists to go along with them! Makes it more engaging for the kiddos and they really respond well to it!


So we have all heard that deep breathing helps your body and mind to calm down when you are feeling angry, upset, anxious, you name it! Just taking three deep breaths can completely change your mood and slow your heart rate down back to normal. Ever tried doing this with a 2 year old? Yeah, it’s not so easy. To make it more playful, throw some pretend play in there! If you notice your toddler is beginning to escalate, make a “bowl” or “cup” with your hands. Tell them you just made some soup and need some helping cooling it down. Or pretend you are blowing out a candle. There are endless possibilities here! Use that beautiful imagination of yours! 🙂


These are a great way to get some healthy pressure on those muscles and create a calming sensation on the body. Stand by any wall, put your hands up against it as if you were going to do a push-up. And start pushing! You can make it fun and silly by trying to “move” the wall and act like your actually moving it! This is great to use if you’re trying to get them to sit for a book reading or maybe before bedtime, snack/meal time as well!


Another great way to get some deep muscle movement. Using their hands to sculpt, twist and shape the potty is amazing sensory input! And it keeps them focused on something. It doesn’t have to be silly putty. It can be play-doh, homemade slime, kinetic sand, anything similar!

Check out my favorite homemade slime recipe!! You can get any color glitter, too! So fun and lasts a long time! 🙂


So simple right? Maybe too simple?? It can definitely work in the right circumstance. Or sing the ABC’s. I’ve tried this with my clients and my littles and you’d be amazed how distracting it can be and engaging. It might not be the best thing if your kiddo is in a full-fledged tantrum. Maybe try taking deep breaths or try my next tip….


There are so many variations of feelings charts out there. I would honestly just recommend making your own! I think it’s easier for younger kiddos to identify what they’re feeling with visuals. Maybe try to snap some pictures of basic emotions you observe them displaying [happy, sad, mad, tired]. Print out the photos and write the emotion next to the picture in big bold letters. Of course a 2-year-old won’t be able to read it but eventually they will begin to learn the words next to the pictures. When you see them getting angry or sad, refer them to the chart. Ask them how they are feeling. Usually you know how they are feeling [mom’s have that sixth sense], but this exercise is for them to identify their feelings. So when they begin to cry when mommy or daddy goes to work, they know that means they are sad. As they get older you can add on more complex emotions like “hungry”, “lonely”, or “anxious”. I’m currently working on mine right now and will post pictures once I have them all captured and put together!

Also for older kiddos, around age 3-4 and up you could start to introduce the Zones of Regulation created by Leah M. Kuypers.

This is a gold mine. Children are able to learn emotions by associating them with a certain color. Schools and other child development centers and therapists use this everywhere.


Some of the tips I’ve given so far can be used as, what is ABA therapists call them, replacement behaviors. The definition is basically in the name- an appropriate behavior that is functionally replaceable to an inappropriate behavior. When your children get older, it will no longer be socially acceptable for them to lie down and begin to stomp their feet and throw a tantrum when things don’t go their way [let’s be real it’s never “acceptable”, but more understandable when you’re a toddler]. So we must teach them these replacement behaviors! There are many creative ways we can do this! Instead of punching a wall or lashing out at someone near them in a physical way, redirect them to hitting a pillow or give them a ball to kick really hard. It still provides the same stimulation without resulting in harm to people or property around them.

Different things work for different kiddos. You just gotta find what calms your little one down. And it’s not all negative behaviors necessarily. They could just have a lot of wiggles and giggles and they need to get them out! Instead of them constantly trying to seek attention by banging on things or terrorizing your house, turn on some music and dance it out! Or take them outside and have a race! Seriously there are so many possibilities and you can be creative with these! I truly hope these help if you have an emotional and wild little one!

Are there any other things you do that help that I haven’t mentioned?? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to try them out!

26 thoughts on “How to Teach Your 2-year-old to Regulate Their Emotions”

  1. Thanks so much for this resource! Lots of helpful tips. Great idea to teach them about their emotions. Often my son who is now 3 can switch his anger into laughter. I can just give him the eye and he’s knows that he’s being a little crazy and starts laughing. Not all the time. Sometimes he really is in a mood but more often than not he’s fake mad. My daughter on the other hand who is 2 dosent know how to stop tantruming. I’m going to use some of your tips with her. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

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