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Toddlers & Tantrums

The Focus of OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY is to provide functional activities to help children successfully participate in life's daily activities/routines. Usually, that consists of playing cooperatively with toys and peers, going to daycare and/or school, eating, getting dressed, following simple directions from parents, and other daily routines.


For most children all is “hunky-dory” with them until they are told no, must leave when they want to stay, or must listen to mom or dad...does this sound familiar?! When THEIR ideas or plans are interrupted this may lead to a tantrum. A tantrum is an emotional outburst/behavior, that is typically caused by the child wanting an item or not wanting to do something. Tantrums are typical and can happen from time to time.

A tantrum usually has these components

1. Getting your attention: Does your child look to you for a reaction or does the behavior decrease or stop when you leave the room or ignore it?

2. Will stop when you give in: If your child wants the toy at the store and you give it to them, will the behavior stop?

3. Will not hurt the child: Is your child aware of their surroundings, they will not kick or hit anything that will intentionally hurt themselves?


Emotional regulation is the ability to self-calm during an emotional and/or stressful situation. It is being able to recover or move on from their occasional tantrum. If your child seems to be having a tantrum multiple times per day, it last longer than a few minutes, and/or is triggered without an exact cause or by something simple this may be more than a typical tantrum. If your child struggles with following simple directions from you or this leads to a tantrum. These may be red flags that your child may have trouble with emotional regulation skills. Occupational therapy can help provide a variety of different and successful strategies that can help with emotional regulation skills that can impact their daily behavior.


Here is our occupational therapist’s Top FIVE Tips to assist with tantrums/behavior and make transitions easier.

1. Use simple phrases and stay calm

2. Prepare them for ending a task (“you have 2 more turns”, “we will be done when I count to 5, set a timer”)

3. Set a routine

4. Give them a simple choice (a choice that you are ok with them choosing! For example, do you want to go outside after lunch or supper?)

5. Stick to what you said

These helpful strategies can help you and your toddler enjoy life's daily tasks and routines! If you are having challenges or wondering if your child's behavior is typical for their age, consult with an OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST.

The OT at Kids in Motion Pediatric Therapy & Wellness is dedicated to problem-solving with parents, educating, and teaching strategies during therapy sessions in order to improve a child’s self-calming abilities and emotional regulation.

Brittany Schock, MS,OTR/L

Occupational Therapist


701-471-2782 or email us at

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