Posted in Anger Management, Behavior, Emotions, Positive Parenting, School, Therapy

Anger Tool Box and Play Dough ~ Play Therapy for Kids

Everyone gets angry! There is not one person on this earth who has not been angry before! No matter who you are, anger can make you feel like a MONSTER!! Your mind and body react in Monsterish ways –

  • Your brain races with terrible thoughts
  • You clench/grind your teeth
  • You want to scream
  • You grunt at people
  • Your hands ball up into fists
  • Your heart races
  • Your stomach hurts
  • Your body heats up
  • Your feet want to kick or stomy

Anger that is not dealt with appropriately can stay with a person for a LONG LONG time! There are adults that are still angry about something that happened to them when they were kids. Because they never dealt with their anger it stuck around like a bad smell! This does not have to happen to you! Deal with anger!

Children get angry and many parents are at a loss for how to help them. One method to help children work through anger is to teach them about ALL of their emotions—positive and negative. Because, let’s face it, we all get angry—adults, children and everyone in between. The difference between a 3 year old getting angry and a 33 year old getting angry is that the adult has developed coping skills and is more aware of emotions. By giving children the words and coping skills to deal with their emotions, they will be less likely to have outbursts and more likely to understand it’s OK to be angry—it’s all about what you DO with your anger.

First of all, don’t hide your own emotions from your children. It’s important for children to know that everyone gets angry, everyone cries and everyone smiles. Talk about your emotions. You don’t have to divulge the details, simply state, “Mommy is sad right now because my phone is lost,” or “I am happy about having everyone home for dinner tonight,” is enough. Also, talk about your child’s emotions openly. You don’t have to justify or over explain their feelings. But saying, “I see you’re angry because we’re leaving the park,” is validating you understand how they feel.

Along with talking about your emotions, read books that help children put their emotions into words.

Have an Anger Box that kids can access whenever they want to take a minute with their thoughts. Encourage them to use the Anger Box whenever you see they are getting upset or losing control of a situation. You might be asking yourself: “Doesn’t having an Anger Box encourage them to be angry?” This answer is twofold. First, the reason the Anger Box is always accessible is because I don’t want children acting angry simply to go use it. Secondly, the Anger Box is giving them an opportunity to regain control of their anger, to identify their emotions and to develop coping skills.

What is an Anger Box:

It’s a box filled with various calming items for a child to use when they are feeling angry or emotional in any way. At home keep these items by a comfortable chair in the living room. In the classroom, it should be kept in a quiet area. The idea of the Anger Box is not that it’s a punishment, but a way to teach children to work through their emotions in a healthy manner. Here is a list of ideas for items to include:

  • Feelings Wheel
  • Picture cards with emotions on them (ALL emotions, positive and negative)
  • Various squishy items such as a foam ball or small pillow
  • Beads and string
  • Bubbles
  • Bubble wrap
  • Small pinwheel
  • Playdough
  • A small mirror

Of course, you can add other items you think your child would benefit from. The bubbles and pinwheel make it so your child needs to take deep breaths to make them work and deep breathing is important for calming down. The mirror helps children see how they look like when they are feeling various things and use the feelings wheel or emotion cards to help identify that feeling. Stringing beads takes concentration, as does popping bubble wrap one bubble at a time. Squishy items such as a foam ball or playdough are good for relieving tension.


Play Dough in Play Therapy

Anger Management Technique

There is a very well known directive play therapy technique called Play dough Smash.  This can be done with simply a ball of playdough, or the child can make a monster or person out of it first.  The therapist simply has the child SMASH the playdough with their fist!  It’s a great, directive and safe way to release anger.  Have your child to state something they are angry about before they smash the playdough.

For example, “I”m angry that my mom didn’t pick me up from my dad’s house like she said she was going to.” SMASH!

You should also take a turn, so you can model for the child how to appropriately release our anger.  Talk about the difference of hitting the playdough and hitting other people.  This technique is another great one to help empower a child who may not feel any sense of control over his/her environment … and for you to understand the source of a child’s anger.

Assessment Tool:


Use playdough in a directive way as an assessment tool. Have the child create themselves out of play dough.  It’s a variation of a Draw-a-Person assessment technique. Think about how it would feel to be that person (the play dough person creation) … does that person look capable, friendly, happy, open to the world?  Then ask the child about your interpretations to see if you are on the right track, “Hmm, I’m wondering … your guy looks like he’s pretty stuck without any feet.  I wonder if he feels like he can’t move.” 

Play dough in Play Therapy – Wonderful TIP for playing with Play Dough – Use table cloth (get at Dollar store) as a mat on the floor or to cover the table ~ easy clean up! ~kids love creating pretend food, building structures, creating creatures & using accessories! Builds self-esteem = they can control & make what THEY WISH.

Original Sources


Mother, Pediatric Nurse and a Trail Blazer for Positive Change.

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