6 Toddler Time-In Ideas: Teaching Emotional Regulation And Empathy

What's Covered

Are you tired of using time-outs as a form of discipline for your toddler? It may be time to try something new. Time-ins are a great alternative to time-outs and can help teach emotional regulation and empathy to your little one.

In this article, we will give you six toddler time-in ideas to try with your child. Time-ins are a form of positive discipline that encourages children to recognize and regulate their emotions.

Rather than isolating them in a corner, time-ins encourage children to express their feelings and work through them in a supportive and loving environment. By practicing time-ins, you are teaching your child how to manage their emotions and how to be empathetic towards others.

So, let’s dive into these six toddler time-in ideas that will help you and your child foster emotional regulation and empathy.

Key Takeaways

  • Time-ins are a positive discipline alternative to time-outs that focus on addressing underlying issues that led to misbehavior and teach emotional regulation and empathy to children.
  • Calming corners promote self-regulation, emotional awareness, and empathy towards others and provide a safe space for children to retreat to when feeling upset or frustrated.
  • Positive communication and empathy are key in promoting emotional regulation and empathy in toddlers, and incorporating empathy into daily interactions can be simple and effective.
  • Overall, creating a safe and supportive environment for toddlers to express their feelings and consistently modeling empathy can lead to a more compassionate world.

What are Time-Ins and How They Can Help Your Toddler

You’ll love learning about time-ins and how they can help your toddler regulate their emotions and develop empathy!

Time-ins are a form of discipline that involves teaching your child how to manage their emotions and behavior through positive reinforcement and guidance. Unlike time-outs, which involve isolating your child for a certain amount of time, time-ins focus on addressing the underlying issues that led to the misbehavior in the first place.

Using time-ins can benefit your child in many ways, especially when it comes to emotional regulation and empathy development. By taking the time to connect with your child and understand their feelings, you can help them learn how to express themselves in a healthy and productive way.

You can also teach them how to recognize and empathize with the emotions of others, which can be an important skill in building positive relationships and social connections. Overall, time-ins can be a powerful tool for promoting emotional intelligence and healthy development in your toddler.

Practice Mindfulness Together

By engaging in mindfulness exercises together, you and your toddler can foster a deeper connection and understanding of your own emotions and those of others. Mindfulness is all about being present in the moment and cultivating a sense of awareness and acceptance of our thoughts and feelings. One way to practice mindfulness with your toddler is through mindful breathing and guided meditation.

To get started, find a quiet and comfortable space where you and your toddler can sit or lie down. Encourage your toddler to close their eyes and take a deep breath in through their nose, and then slowly exhale through their mouth. You can also try guiding them through a simple meditation, such as imagining a peaceful place or visualizing a happy memory. Additionally, you can incorporate yoga poses and stretching exercises into your mindfulness practice to help your toddler connect with their body and release any tension or stress. By practicing mindfulness together, you can help your toddler develop emotional regulation and empathy skills that will serve them well throughout their lives.

Mindful BreathingGuided Meditation
Helps calm the mind and bodyEncourages visualization and imagination
Teaches mindfulness and awarenessFosters a sense of peace and relaxation
Can be done anywhere, anytimePromotes emotional regulation and empathyCan improve overall physical and mental well-being.

Use Art and Play to Express Emotions

You can use art and play to express your emotions. Drawing and painting can be a great way to release feelings that are hard to put into words.

You can also try role-playing or puppetry to act out different scenarios and explore different emotions. And don’t forget about sensory play, which can be a calming and helpful way to process feelings.

Don’t forget to use contractions!

Drawing and Painting

Using art materials like paint and crayons can help toddlers explore and express their emotions in a safe and creative way. Art therapy is a form of therapy that uses creative expression as a way to promote emotional healing and growth. Toddlers who are struggling to regulate their emotions can benefit greatly from this type of therapy.

Here are 4 ways that drawing and painting can help toddlers with emotional regulation and empathy:

  1. Drawing allows toddlers to communicate their feelings without having to use words, which can be especially helpful for those who’re still developing their language skills.

  2. Exploring different art materials can provide a sensory experience that can be calming and soothing for toddlers who’re feeling overwhelmed or upset.

  3. When toddlers create art, they’re in control of the process, which can help them feel more empowered and confident in their ability to manage their emotions.

  4. Drawing and painting can also help toddlers develop empathy by allowing them to express and understand the emotions of others through their artwork. This can help them learn to identify and respond to the emotions of others in a compassionate and understanding way.

Role-playing and Puppetry

Role-playing and puppetry can be effective methods for young children to explore and understand different social situations and relationships. Through role-playing games, children can put themselves in different scenarios and learn how to navigate through them. Meanwhile, puppetry activities provide an opportunity for children to learn about empathy by identifying and expressing different emotions.

Here are some ideas for role-playing and puppetry activities that you can try with your toddler:

Role-Playing GamesPuppetry ActivitiesSocial Skills Learning
Playing houseMaking sock puppetsUnderstanding family dynamics
Pretending to be a doctorCreating paper bag puppetsLearning to care for others’ well-being
Imagining a tea partyMaking finger puppetsPracticing turn-taking and sharing

By incorporating role-playing and puppetry into your toddler’s playtime, you are not only helping them develop their emotional regulation and empathy, but you are also providing a fun and engaging way for them to learn about social skills. So, grab some props and let the imagination take over!

Sensory Play

Immerse yourself in a world of textures and colors with sensory play activities that engage your senses and spark your imagination.

Sensory bins are a great way to introduce your toddler to different textures, shapes, and colors. Fill a plastic bin with materials like rice, beans, water beads, or sand and let your child explore with their hands. You can also add small toys or objects for them to find and sort.

Sensory activities can help your child develop their fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and cognitive abilities. They can also provide a calming effect and help your child regulate their emotions.

Try making a sensory bottle by filling a clear plastic bottle with glitter, water, and a drop of food coloring. Your child can watch as the glitter settles and swirls around.

Other sensory play ideas include playdough, finger painting, and making homemade slime.

Have fun exploring the world of sensory play with your toddler and watch as they learn and grow.

Read Books and Tell Stories

Reading books and telling stories is a wonderful way to help toddlers learn about emotional regulation and empathy. Not only is it an enjoyable activity for both the child and adult, but it also provides opportunities for discussion and understanding of different emotions and situations. When choosing age appropriate books, consider ones that have characters experiencing a range of emotions and situations that the child may encounter in their own life. This will allow for discussions about how the characters handle their emotions and how the child can learn to do the same.

In addition to teaching emotional regulation, storytelling also has other benefits for toddlers. It can improve language development, cognitive skills, and even foster a love for reading. The table below provides some ideas for incorporating storytelling into toddler time-in sessions. Keep in mind that it’s important to choose books that are engaging and enjoyable for both the child and adult, as this will help create a positive association with reading and learning.

StorytellingRead a book to your child and discuss the characters’ emotions and actionsAge-appropriate books
Storytelling with propsUse props or puppets to act out the story and make it more interactiveAge-appropriate books, props or puppets
Create your own storyEncourage your child to make up their own story, which can help develop their imagination and creativityBlank paper, markers or crayons

By incorporating storytelling into toddler time-in sessions, you can help your child develop emotional regulation and empathy, while also promoting other important skills such as language and cognitive development.

Create a Calming Corner

One great way to help your toddler calm down and feel safe is by creating a calming corner in their environment.

A calming corner is a designated space where your child can go to relax, cool down, and collect themselves when they are feeling overwhelmed.

Having a calming corner provides many benefits, such as helping your child learn self-regulation, promoting emotional awareness, and encouraging empathy towards others.

Creating a safe space for your child to retreat to when they are feeling upset or frustrated can be a game-changer for both you and them.

When you establish a calming corner, you’re showing your child that it’s okay to feel big emotions and that there’s a healthy way to cope with them.

You can make the calming corner even more inviting by including soft pillows, a cozy blanket, and some calming sensory toys.

With a calming corner in place, you’re giving your child the tools they need to navigate their emotions in a healthy and constructive way.

Practice Empathy and Kindness

You can encourage positive communication by modeling it yourself and actively listening to your child. Show empathy in your everyday life by acknowledging your child’s feelings and validating their perspective.

Practice kindness and gratitude by teaching your child to say "please"and "thank you,"and by modeling acts of kindness towards others.

Encourage Positive Communication

Encouraging positive communication between toddlers helps them develop emotional regulation and empathy, creating a safe and supportive environment for them to express their feelings. Effective listening is one of the key factors in promoting positive communication.

When toddlers feel heard and understood, they’re more likely to communicate their needs and emotions in a healthy way. To encourage positive communication, it’s important to model effective listening and communication skills yourself.

This includes actively listening to your toddler, using positive language, and avoiding negative or accusatory statements. Additionally, you can teach your toddler to use ‘I’statements to express their feelings, rather than blaming or attacking others.

Encouraging positive communication can help toddlers build strong relationships and develop important emotional skills that will serve them well throughout their lives.

Model Empathy in Your Everyday Life

By demonstrating empathy in your daily actions and interactions, you can teach those around you the importance of understanding and compassion. Empathy modeling is a powerful tool that can help toddlers learn how to regulate their emotions and develop a sense of empathy towards others.

For example, if your toddler is upset about something, you can acknowledge their feelings and try to understand what they’re going through. By doing so, you’re modeling empathy and showing them that it’s okay to express their emotions.

In addition to modeling empathy during difficult moments, it’s important to incorporate it into your daily interactions as well. This can be as simple as asking how someone’s day was or showing genuine interest in their hobbies and interests. By doing so, you’re demonstrating that you care about them as a person and that their feelings matter to you.

Through consistent empathy modeling, toddlers can learn how to recognize and understand the emotions of others, which can lead to stronger relationships and a more compassionate world.

Practice Kindness and Gratitude

Let’s make each other’s day brighter by practicing small acts of kindness and expressing gratitude towards those around us. Teaching gratitude and kindness activities to your toddler can help them develop emotional regulation and empathy. Here are four easy ways to incorporate kindness and gratitude into your daily routine:

  1. Say thank you: Encourage your toddler to say thank you when someone does something nice for them, whether it’s a family member, friend, or even a stranger. This simple act of gratitude can make a big difference in someone’s day.

  2. Give compliments: Teach your toddler the power of a compliment by encouraging them to give sincere compliments to others. This can help them develop empathy and see the good in others.

  3. Random acts of kindness: Encourage your toddler to perform random acts of kindness, such as drawing a picture for a neighbor or helping a family member with a chore. This can help them develop a sense of empathy and generosity towards others.

  4. Gratitude journal: Start a gratitude journal with your toddler and write down things you’re thankful for each day. This can help them develop a positive attitude and appreciation for the good things in their life.


So there you have it! Six different time-in ideas that can help your toddler learn emotional regulation and empathy.

Remember, time-ins are a way of nurturing your child’s emotional growth by giving them a safe space to express their feelings and learn how to manage them.

By practicing mindfulness, using art and play, and creating a calming corner, you can help your toddler develop the tools they need to regulate their emotions.

Reading books and practicing empathy and kindness are also great ways to help your child understand and connect with others.

With these strategies, you’ll be able to help your toddler navigate their emotions and build healthy relationships for years to come.

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Diana Lucas

Diana Lucas

Hi, Diana here. Welcome to my blog and hope you like my sharing. I am a mother of 2 boys, 3 years old and a 1 year old. I dedicate my career in child development research and I focus on parenting tips, positive parenting, educational toys for my babies. Your time here means a lot to me! Diana A. Lucas