Sunny Wallis

Sunny Wallis

Nov 4, 2023. 5 mins read

Parenting

Toy Therapy: 10 Kids’ Toys that can Support Your Child in Regulating Their Emotions

In the chaotic world of parenting, one thing unites us all: the seemingly never-ending struggle to help our little emotional time bombs regulate their feelings.

Angry frustrated girl throwing a temper tantrum

So, what is self-regulation?

According to raisingchildren.net, self-regulation is the ability to understand and manage your behaviour and your reactions to feelings and things happening around you.

It includes being able to:

  • regulate reactions to strong emotions like frustration, excitement, anger and embarrassment

  • calm down after something exciting or upsetting

  • focus on a task

  • refocus attention on a new task

  • control impulses

  • behave in ways that help you get along with other people

Why self-regulation is important

As your child grows, self-regulation helps them:

  • Learn at school because self-regulation allows your child to sit and listen in the classroom

  • Behave in socially acceptable ways because self-regulation allows your child to control impulses

  • Make friends because self-regulation allows your child to take turns in games and conversation, share toys, and express emotions appropriately

  • Become more independent because self-regulation allows your child to make appropriate decisions about behaviour and learn how to behave in new situations with less guidance from you

We've all been there—the supermarket meltdown, the playground showdown, the inexplicable tantrum at the sight of broccoli—all the worst things at the most inopportune time. As busy parents, it can be hard to give your child the exact attention they need when they need it, but lucky we are now here to unveil a secret weapon for your child’s battle of regulating their emotions: TOY THERAPY!

Forget about expensive child therapists and complicated emotional regulation techniques; get the ball rolling with some ingenious kid's toys to help your little ones master their rollercoaster of feelings. This article explores the fascinating world of toy therapy, where playtime meets emotional mastery. Here are our children’s toy suggestions:

1. Mr Potato Head 

Mr. Potato Head, with his removable facial features, is the emotional Swiss Army knife of toys. Teach your child to express emotions by customising Mr. Potato Head's face. Happy? Add a smile. Sad? Swap in a frown. Angry? Stick a unibrow on him. Exploring your child's emotions and getting them to explain and demonstrate them calmly is essential for children to understand how they feel and communicate it to the world around them.

2. Putty Play & Fidget Spinners

Remember when fidget spinners were all the rage? Whenever your child feels overwhelmed, hand them this nifty device and watch them spin their way to inner peace. Encourage them to label their feelings as they watch the spinner whirl. Are they feeling excited? Anxious? Dizzy from all the spinning? It's a fantastic way to channel their extra energy whilst giving them space and time to concentrate and resolve their conflicting thoughts. 

Putty like Play-Doh has a similar effect and can work as a little stress-relief factory. Additionally, it also contributes to fine motor skill development in smaller children. Kids can squeeze, pull, and mould it into endless shapes, giving them a hands-on way to work out their feelings. Try making your own putty at home if looking at more sustainable kid's toys.

3. Magic 8 Ball

Is your child a Toy Story fan? The Magic 8-Ball is the ultimate decision-making toy, and it's equally adept at helping kids make choices when they're overwhelmed by emotions. Should they have peas for dinner? "Outlook not so good." Should they share their toys? "Most likely." The mystical orb knows all! This can be useful when children struggle to come to a conclusion or resolve a conflict.

4. Inflatable punching bags

This may sound a little aggressive and counterintuitive, but when your little angel turns into a tiny tornado of rage, inflate this delightful bouncy contraption and watch in awe as they give it the ol' one-two. Just remember to teach them that it's for venting frustration, not settling sibling disputes. Physical activity is also a fantastic method for relieving stress and promoting positive mental health among children.

5. Lego therapy and building blocks 

LEGO, the tiny little landmines of the living room floor, can also double as an emotional outlet. Encourage your child to build a LEGO fortress to protect their feelings or construct a LEGO rocket ship to blast away their frustrations. The sky's the limit! 

Building LEGO also supports your child's brain development as it requires an element of problem-solving, imagination and focus. We know LEGO can be on the pricey side of toys, so why not check out our toy swapping app to see if you can pick up any secondhand toys.

6. Whack a mole 

For the parent with a knack for multitasking, introduce your child to the game of Whack-a-Mole. It's perfect for those moments when you need to vent some frustration while teaching your child the art of emotional regulation. Just be sure to explain that you're not suggesting they whack real moles or siblings. The physical aggression involved in the game can help them relieve stress, and mental focus can distract them from the problem at hand.

7. Squishmallows

Squishmallows are the most adorable stress-relief toys. When your little one throws a tantrum that rivals the apocalypse, hand them one of these squishy wonders and watch them turn to calm goo. 

As they squeeze and reshape their squishy friend, they're working through their anger and frustration while being comforted by something soft and caring. It's like a mini-therapy session without the hourly rates and awkward silences. It's scientifically proven that squishing something can temporarily suppress the urge to scream, which is a win-win for everyone involved.

8. Finger puppets 

For those times when your child needs to put on a show of emotions, the "Emotional Finger Puppets Show” comes to the rescue. These adorable little finger puppets represent various emotions, from happy to sad to angry and confused.

You can use them to act out different scenarios, like Mr. Happy going to the ice cream parlour but discovering they're out of chocolate chip cookie dough. Your child can observe how the characters handle their emotions and learn that feeling all sorts of things is okay. Just be prepared for the heartwarming sight of a tiny finger puppet shedding a tear over imaginary ice cream.

9. Super soakers

This outdoor garden toy gives cooling off a double meaning! Hand your kid a super soaker, fill it with water, and let them blast away their anger and frustration. Not only will they be regulating their emotions, but they'll also be getting fresh air and exercise. Plus, the neighbour's cat will think twice before using your garden as a litter box.

10. Puzzles 

Large puzzles are not for the faint of heart but can be used as an emotion-regulation training exercise for older kids. Try a 500 or 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle of a serene landscape, and it's your child's job to complete it while maintaining emotional composure. When they finally put that last piece in place, you can reward them with a trophy labelled "Master of Patience" or a big bowl of ice cream. You decide which is more motivating.

Going new isn't the only answer when finding these emotionally regulating toys. For sustainable and frugal living, embrace toy reuse by checking out toy marketplaces, secondhand shops, buy nothing and toy sharing groups to build up your collection of toys. 

Creativity knows no bounds when it comes to helping children regulate their emotions, and those emotional rollercoasters can evolve into expressive little ferris wheels. We believe toy therapy is an excellent and supportive parenting alternative to traditional methods. You can also visit Community Early Learning Australia for more support and advice.

Who needs a professional therapist when you can have a super soaker, whack-a-mole squishmallo therapist? We’re pretty sure your kids will agree.

Sunny Wallis

Sunny Wallis

Wordsmith. Runner & Hockey player. Mum of two under two.

Tired, all the time. A childcare and education marketing specialist who loves documenting and transcribing the highs and lows of family life. You'll find her in the sunshine, in a sports bra chasing kids on scooters. A pizza fanatic with a small addiction to mojitos. Hates green vegetables but now has to pretend they're her favourite food 5 days a week.

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