Social and Emotional

Helping Kids With Self-Regulation – Fire OK for Dragons, Not Kids

Dragons aren’t very good controlling their emotions. They just breathe fire. Helping kids with self-regulation is easier than helping dragons. It’s okay for dragons to breathe fire, but not kids.

helping children with self-regulation

Self-regulation is the ability and skills to control our emotions, motivation, and attention or focus. It affects all of us for our whole life and it’s crucial to support children to develop a strong emotional core during the early years.

When it comes to feelings, besides understanding them, a big challenge for kids is how to regulate their own emotions. When dragons are angry they can breathe fire and roar. Is it okay for kids to breathe fire and roar at people? No, that’s not such a good choice.

emotional challenges

Tantrums, melt-downs, and losing it, are pretty fiery but they aren’t good choices either. Kids don’t come pre-equipped with the skills and understanding to handle strong feelings. This is something they need to learn. Helping kids with self-regulation involves parents, caregivers, and other adults.

Children will learn from watching us as we go about everyday activities and interact with others. It helps if we can explain what we are feeling. Here’s an example. Last week, when packing for a short trip, the zipper broke on the suitcase. After biting my tongue so I didn’t say a bad word, I used words and tone of voice and said, “Oh, how frustrating! Now, I’ll have to change suitcases. This is a problem and I feel like screaming. Guess, I’ll take a deep breath and see if I can calm myself down.” When you do this, you are giving your child the words for an inner voice and the example of what to do.

empathy and imagination

We can also give kids hints, reminders, or clues. For example, we might say to a child, “You look upset. Would you like to ask someone for help?” If a child is having difficulty with a toy, we can ask them if they’d like to take a break for a minute or two and come back. Kids can use the hints for their actions. This way they can practice making the choice. Physical touch, like rubbing a child’s back, or giving a hand a squeeze can be effective reminders for calming down.

Waiting can be hard for adults, so it’s understandable it’s especially hard for kids. Strategies like looking at a book, singing songs, or playing an I Spy game can make waiting much easier. Speaking of books, there are many books and stories you can share for helping kids with self-regulation. Libraries will likely have some you can borrow.

helping kids with self-regulation

In any day, there will be countless challenges for kids to cope with their emotions. They need to know it’s okay to have strong feelings. They might even feel like they have a fire inside. But, who would want to negotiate with a dragon?

Dragon Fun and Learning: Helping Kids With Feelings and Fears

Helping kids with feelings and fears can be quite a challenge.  Some resources can be their own toys, including dragons, and their activities as we guide them to understand feelings and cope with fears. There are both friendly and fierce-looking dragons.

dragons feelings fears kids

Dragons are big, scary creatures. While they don’t exist in real life, in a way they exist in the mind. Children have powerful imaginations and what they imagine can generate deep feelings. Despite have big teeth and being able to breathe fire, knights often fight with dragons. Knights are brave. When kids are playing with dragons we can ask them if they are afraid of dragons or if they are brave. What does brave feel like?

We can ask kids to show us what scared and brave would look like. As we watch kids, we should be able to see a difference. Usually, they strike poses and are pretty dramatic. This gives us an idea if kids are able to match words to appropriate feelings. There are so many feelings and words to figure out that it’s easy to get them confused.

Sometimes, there are situations when we need to ask children if they can be brave, such as letting a doctor look at and touch an injury. It’s helpful if we can give them an example, like asking them to be brave like a knight that has to stand up to a scary dragon. Let them know it’s okay to still feel scared. Being brave is a way to handle those feelings.

Not only do kids need to learn about their own feelings, but about other people’s too. One way to do that is to look at faces. Faces can tell us about other people. Make some silly faces together.

feelings fears faces kids

Have you ever asked your child to show you a mad face or a happy face? Those are pretty easy. Check for a sad, worried, surprised, and scared face too. A huge part of communication happens without any words. No wonder we need lots of resources for helping kids with feelings and fears. What kind of dragon or people faces can you make?

Why Dragons and Kids Need Social Skills

While fire power is effective, dragons and kids need social skills. Did you know social skills will influence your child in school and beyond?

Dragons pretty well do what they want, whenever they want. It’s easy to understand why they have a lot of enemies and why they don’t have many friends. Their behavior means they end up living all alone.

dragons kids need social skills

We all live in a social context. For children, learning social skills is quite a challenge. It’s so complicated and seems to change depending on the situation. As parents and caregivers, we can support kids as they learn and practice. Some basic social skills include sharing, taking turns polite words, being able to wait, how to be friendly, how to negotiate and how to solve conflicts.

kids need social skills.

Watching us and following our example is one way children learn. Books and stories are another great resource. In the book, The Knight and The Dragon, by Tomie de Paola, the knight and the dragon have a problem. Usually, they are enemies and in the story the two have several long battles. However, neither one of them win. The dragon burns the knight’s armor and the knight hurts the dragon with this weapons. They decide instead of fighting to try a different solution. On the last page, in the picture the dragon and the knight have a partnership and are having a barbecue for everyone else.


Helping kids with social skills is one of the biggest challenges for those of us who work with kids. We need all the ideas we can get. Two plastic dragons, or a dragon and a dinosaur, can be recruited to act out a problem and find an answer. Use your best dragon voices. A dragon can be lonely and wonder how to be a friend. Your child can tell the dragon what it needs to know and do. Kids often act out scenarios as they try out their version of problems and solutions.

Dragons may not need them, but kids need social skills. What do you do to guide your child?

Olympics #24: Friendliness for Nations & Friendship Skills for Kids

The Olympic Games champion sports and also friendly understanding among nations. Today’s Olympic-inspired post is friendship skills for kids. The Olympic tradition is excellence in sports. The Games also promote friendly rivalry as a tool for international peace and harmony. The Olympic experience for athletes includes meeting people from other nations around the world. They … Continue reading Olympics #24: Friendliness for Nations & Friendship Skills for Kids

Olympic Games #23: Young Children Learning Values

The Olympics are far more than sports. As we watched the games, we saw values at play too. What are your thoughts on children learning values? Which ones? We could likely all agree that some important values for children to learn are kindness, friendliness, good sportsmanship, honesty, perseverance, being part of a team, and trying … Continue reading Olympic Games #23: Young Children Learning Values

Olympics #22: Children’s Coping with Winning and Losing, Fair and Unfair

Crowds at airports and hometown parades are welcoming athletes. Some were winners, some not. Children’s coping with winning and losing can be a concern. During the Olympics we saw how hard this was for many adults, so imagine how much harder this can be for children. Although preschool children are not involved in sports and … Continue reading Olympics #22: Children’s Coping with Winning and Losing, Fair and Unfair

#21 Olympic Athletes Persevere – Perseverance Is Important for Kids

Story after story about Olympic athletes mentioned their perseverance. The skill of perseverance is important for kids too, even our very young ones. We can think of perseverance as the effort or self-push to get through challenges. Sometimes, this is also called grit. Usually, there is a reason, an outcome or something we want to … Continue reading #21 Olympic Athletes Persevere – Perseverance Is Important for Kids

Olympics #19: Special Kindness Medal – Helping Children Show Kindness

A rare Olympic medal for kindness was awarded in Rio. What are your thoughts on helping children show kindness? What do you and your child do for kindness? During the women’s 5000m heat, two runners collided and fell to the track. They helped each other up and then continued encouraging and supporting so they could … Continue reading Olympics #19: Special Kindness Medal – Helping Children Show Kindness

Space Activities # 16: Kids Space Jokes Develop Humor

Kids space jokes develop humor. How many times a day does your child laugh? No matter the number, it’s likely much more than you do as a parent or caregiver. Q. Why did the cow go in the spaceship? A. It wanted to go to the mooooooon. Q. Which planet is Mickey Mouse’s favorite? A. … Continue reading Space Activities # 16: Kids Space Jokes Develop Humor

The Value of Friends for Kids – More Than Three Amigos

Today’s play, the value of friends for kids, is inspired by a meeting. When leaders call their meeting The Three Amigos or Friends, they send a loud message, that of the significance of friendship. Together, Canada, Mexico, and the United States have over 487 million people. The issue of closer understanding and connection is the … Continue reading The Value of Friends for Kids – More Than Three Amigos