6 Great Ways To Help Your Toddler Move Through Their Emotions (Works For Grown Ups Too!)

Living with a toddler is kind of like living with an emotional time bomb. Like, imagine if you expressed every emotion you felt at the exact moment you felt it and acted on every impulse all the time, and that’s pretty much Toddlerhood in a nutshell. (In other words, AWESOME.)

Lately, my daughter has taken to running around the house at bedtime yelling “MY ENERGY IS UP!!!” (which, by the way I honestly have no idea where she learned that) so we’ve started trying to combat that with a little bedtime workout/yoga. It’s been working pretty well, and now instead of doing the chicken-with-its-head-cut-off routine she’ll actually just come out and say “My energy is up, I want to do yoga with Mommy.” (If that’s not the cutest sentence I’ve ever heard.) We start with twenty jumping jacks (that’s part of Yoga, right?), and by the time we hit fifteen she’s usually collapsing to the floor in a pile (she’s not-quite-four).  After that, we basically lie on our backs and breathe, with our legs in the air; preferably resting against a wall or in Dee’s place a couch is plenty.

Anyway, a little accidental movement therapy has done wonders for our bedtime woes so when I heard about movement specialist Michelle Turner and her “gentle movement therapy” for helping toddlers quite literally move through their emotions, I was instantly interested in what she had to say.

  • Six Ways To Help Your Toddler Learn To Move Through Emotion 1 of 8

    According to movement therapist Michelle Turner, "Whatever emotions your child is displaying, helping them cope or work through their frustrations is a vital part of growing up." Read on for a few of Michelle's techniques.

  • Funny Face 2 of 8

    My daughter is very expressive with her little face (my friend Jodi snapped that shot just after Delilah announced "I did not like that joke." — you've heard the one about the deer with no eyes, right?) According to Michelle, there's a teaching opportunity here.


    "Mimick her. Ask her if she can do a better face than that. You will see the frustrations melt away as the two of you start to make faces at each other. What you are teaching her to do is not to get stuck in that position but to give her ways to go in and out of it."

  • Even Toddlers Get The Blues 3 of 8

    There's an exception to Michelle's funny face rule:

    "If your child is very sad that they didn't get their way, now is not the time to make faces back. You don't want to make fun of her. You're looking for ways to have her move through it. When people become sad, their breathing can become shallow. Lie down on the bed with her favorite doll or stuffed animal and breathe. Good belly breathing, in through the chest and out through the belly. If they are having problems getting the hang of it, put their doll or stuffed animal on their belly and have them go for a ride. "

  • Little Worriers 4 of 8

    According to Michelle: 

    "We worry when our brain wants to do something and can't. Remember how great a quick game of Red Light, Green Light was? You can't worry if you are concentrating on the stop and go movement. Peek-a-boo will take that all away from a munchkin. Give their thriving brains something to do."

  • Getting Mad Is Hard To Do… 5 of 8
    Screen Shot 2013-09-05 at 11.48.39 AM

    According to Michelle "Getting mad is a hard emotion to learn. A child has every right to get mad in situations, as do you, it's how they handle it that's key. You should be able to get mad and still breath and move. The extreme is to hold your breath, grit your teeth and clench your fists until your veins pop out of your neck. When your child's mad, then it's time to roll around. Get them on the ground and roll like a log or in a ball. After they roll, you should see them start to laugh. Have them get up and explain what they are mad about. You'll see that they have forgotten or realize that it wasn't so bad. "

  • Happy Feet 6 of 8

    If your kid is prone to gritting his teeth, Michelle's got advice for that too:

    "Bringing emotions through the mouth can be rough on a little guy. A tight jaw can create a life-time of non-verbal responses. "Stomp Your Feet;" start by putting on some music and start a stomp. Once they get going, try for mimics and go for jumping. Show them how to bring their emotions from their head to their feet."

  • ::Eyeroll:: 7 of 8

    Can't believe your kid is already old enough to be rolling their eyes at you? Michelle's heard that song before:

    "Maybe you're just trying to find out what your child might want to have for dinner and you're only seeing the whites of their eyes. This is a great opportunity to see how coordinated they really are. Can they do it with their mouth open? Can they do it with their tongue out? Can they roll their eyes back and touch their nose with their tongue? Can they roll or twist their tongue and roll their eyes back? Not only is this a great way to make eye contact, it adds complexity to a typical response and takes their drama away."

  • Emotions Are Hard For Big People Too 8 of 8

    For more on Michelle and her work, visit


What ways have you found to help your toddler manage their raging emotions? Would you try any of the above techniques with your kiddos?


More from Morgan:

My Mom Had A Wardrobe Malfunction At My Bat Mitzvah
“Doc, Are You Telling Me This Sucker’s Nuclear?”
Social Media is a Warm Gun


Article Posted 2 years Ago
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