I get calls all the time from distressed parents with children who have anger outbursts. I have put together a large collection of anger games over the years, and many are favorites in my office. I wanted to showcase some of the best in this article.
I like to start treatment by equipping kids with a coping skill toolbox to help them cope when triggered. It sets the groundwork for future sessions when we dive into identifying and processing triggers and unresolved issues. Be sure to check out my blog posts about how to assemble a toolbox.
While client-centered play has its place in my office, I am intentional about educating kids on what is happening in their bodies when triggered and helping them identify ways to calm down. They also need to develop an emotional vocabulary to be able to communicate what is happening internally.
Counseling games are my favorite way to help children develop these skills. Let’s face it, they doing worksheets all day at school and the last thing they want to do when they visit me is another worksheet! Games keep it fun and interactive while also teaching vital skills and providing an outlet for processing emotions.
Here are some of my go to games:
Taking Space has been in my office for YEARS. It helps kids identify triggers, body awareness, and a plan of action to help with future anger issues. It has extras that are handy, such as printouts you can send home, checklists to help kids identify triggers, body signals, and many more. I like the theme, as may of my kiddos love space. The language used takes a little getting used to, but overall, it is a great game for a fantastic price.
I created Medieval Minds out of necessity to have a game specifically focused on the fight, flight, or freeze response. The kids have all enjoyed it and I never get complaints about playing it. It helps kids learn about body awareness, coping skills, self-talk, and specific skills to regain control of their bodies after being triggered. This game has been a game-changer for many of my kids. Once they learn to control the fight, flight, or freeze response, they gain mastery over anger.
This is one of the first anger games I have played with kids, and it continues to be a go-to game. Kids enjoy the challenge that is faced with trying to keep the volcano from blowing. You start the game with two snowflakes and collect more if you land on a snowflake space along the way. If you make the volcano blow, you have to cool it with a snowflake. It is interesting to see how different kids respond to the challenge. Some are quick to share snowflakes while other will try to steal them away from others. The game incorporates some great skills such as making I statements, showing empathy for others, identifying body language, and finding coping skills.
Hot Headed is a CBT counseling game to help children better understand their bodies and how they respond to anger. This game will help them identify triggers, find support, and establish a plan to better control outbursts.
Kids will also learn to recognize self-talk and how to modify irrational or negative self-talk statements. When kids understand their bodies and how they respond to anger, they will be in a better position to manage it.
Related Article: Angry Birds Meet CBT
This game is just cool. I’m able to get the kids almost EVERY time, even if they have played this game before. At the start of the game, I tell them that the goal is to have the most treasure, but they almost always think they win if they reach the end first. LOL.
In this game, you collect treasure when you land on a jewel or coin space and answer a question from the matching color card. The cards cover some great topics like internal vs external locus of control, empathy, role-playing, and anger control. The game board provides some obstacles the kids must overcome. It is a well-made game with a lot of cards, which makes it fun to play again.
This is a book and a game to help children overcome anger. It addresses body awareness and coping mechanisms to help calm down when triggered. It also uses cognitive behavioral counseling skills to help kids control self-talk resulting in elevated levels of anger. The game helps children personalize the information by finding their own triggers, body responses, and favorite coping skills. It helps them conceptualize a plan of action to be better prepared when triggers arise.
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This is a simple coping skill board game from Teachers Pay Teachers. Kids like the theme and it helps them identify how to bring their emotions under control to be able to move on with their day. It’s inexpensive and easy to play.
Connect Four isn’t specifically an anger game, but it can certainly make kids angry! And this provides an opportunity for them to use coping skills to calm down. It allows the counselor to be able to model appropriate responses, demonstrate using skills to stay in control of emotions, and verbalize problem-solving skills while playing. All of these skills will help children gain mastery over their anger. My favorite Connect Four game is the new launchers game. Be prepared for the frustration! (Insert maniacal laugh). You can see my game review with tips on how to use the game here.
I love to use UNO as a feelings game. I have them talk about a time they were happy for yellow, angry for red, scared for green, and sad for blue. Sometimes the kids will purposefully change the color just to talk about a different emotion. It is interesting to see which colors they gravitate towards – showing it is easier for them to articulate certain emotions, and avoidance with emotions they do not enjoy talking about. It opens the door for all sorts of discussion. I will often bookmark in my mind something they dropped during this game to further process at a later date.
When I get out the Sorry game, I straight up tell kids it is my intention to make them mad. Inevitably, when I play a sorry card, they need some coping skills. This is a great game if you want to trigger a kid. I will often mirror some of their comments and behaviors to see their reaction (within reason). I will then ask, “How could I have handled that better?” There are a lot of ways to use this game with kids.
This game can be printed and played in person or can be played online. Each player will answer questions to make a line across the game board to win (vertical, diagonal, or horizontal). Each space is linked with a question to answer, which are all anger-themed questions. It focuses on triggers, coping, communication, etc.
This would be a fun activity to play in a group or classroom setting. Each team will receive a packet with the same information requiring them to solve all the problems first to win.
What are some of your favorite interventions for kids with anger? I'd love to hear your ideas.
Be sure to check out the other posts in this series: