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Conflict Resolution Activities for Children

Teach young children to safely and independently resolve conflicts with these activities and strategies.

Conflict Resolution Activities for Children

Conflict Resolution Activities for Children

It's impossible to prevent children from experiencing conflicts, especially once they enter preschool and begin to spend less time with their families and more time with other children. Rather than trying to keep children away from upsetting situations, you can teach them to resolve their conflicts safely and independently.

Two children sitting on the floor and playing with colorful blocks and wooden toys.


Conflict scenarios in early childhood education

There are many conflict scenarios that you may encounter in the classroom. If you’ve been teaching for a while, here are some of the most common and potential reasons for them.


Hitting can be both a response to conflict and a conflict itself. Young children typically struggle with impulse control. They may hit others because they're angry or frustrated, but they don't have the vocabulary to describe how they are feeling. A child may hit others because they don't want to follow an educator's directions, or they may hit as a response to an argument or a disagreement over supplies or toys.

Struggling to take turns

Taking turns is difficult for children who haven't developed empathy for others. Young children may not be able to understand the importance of sharing or taking turns during activities, which may lead to arguments and fights.

Name calling

Children may call each other mean names or use rude language when they are upset with each other. It is important to stop name calling in response to conflicts before it causes conflicts to escalate or reignite.

Arguing over the rules of a new game

Children love to use their imaginations to make up their own games, but disagreements over the rules of new games can lead to arguments, hitting, and outbursts.

Why is conflict resolution important in early childhood?

Conflict resolution strategies help children navigate new situations and communicate openly about their emotions. When children learn to resolve conflicts independently, they develop empathy and critical thinking skills that they need to form and maintain strong interpersonal relationships. Teaching your preschoolers conflict resolution strategies can help your classroom function smoothly and minimize the number of serious incidents that can occur.

You can use tools like brightwheel's communication feature to give families updates about how their child has practiced conflict resolution in the classroom.

How to teach conflict resolution

Not all children or situations are the same; therefore, different conflict resolution strategies may benefit different situations and children's personalities.

Here are some conflict resolution strategies you can use in the classroom.

Encourage children to use "I" statements

"I" statements help children identify their emotions and communicate how they feel. For example, rather than tattling to a teacher about another child taking their toy, a child may use an "I" statement, such as, "I don't like when you take my toy. It makes me feel mad," to communicate how they feel.

Encourage children to use statements like "I feel ____ because ______" when conflict occurs to help them understand how their actions affect others.

Focus on behavior rather than blame

When children tell an adult about a conflict, they often start by assigning blame. It's important to teach children to refocus on the actions and behavior that caused a conflict rather than the person who caused the conflict.

Focusing on behavior rather than blaming others can help children understand how their actions can lead to conflict. Knowing how each child's actions created a conflict can help teachers understand the root cause so they can offer solutions that will prevent similar conflicts in the future.

The stoplight technique

The stoplight technique helps children understand and communicate the intensity of their emotions. The technique uses a traffic light color system to measure a child's ability to resolve their conflicts.

"Red" means a child's emotions feel too intense for them to handle, and they don't feel like they can resolve the conflict, "yellow" means a child's emotions are starting to subside, and "green" means they feel capable of resolving their conflict.

You can post an image of a traffic light in your classroom or create a stoplight poster for children to use as a visual aid to help them assess their emotions after a conflict.

The S.T.A.N.D. technique

The S.T.A.N.D. technique, by Dr. Michele Borba, helps children resolve their conflicts independently by making sure that everyone who is involved in a conflict is heard and their solution to the conflict is considered and discussed.

The S.T.A.N.D. technique has five steps:

S: Stop and calm down

Have each child stop, take a deep breath, and pay attention to the emotions they're feeling. Taking time to calm down and focus on their emotions will help children understand what they are feeling and why.

T: Take turns explaining what's bothering you

After calming down and focusing on their emotions, the children should take turns explaining the conflict from their perspective. Make sure each child has a chance to speak without being interrupted or talked over. Tell the children to start their explanations with the word  “I” instead of  “you,” then describe the problem and how they want it resolved. This helps the children focus on the conflict without criticizing each other.

After each child has given their explanation, have them recount what the other child has told them in their own words. This step helps the children learn to empathize with each other. If the children's emotions are high, give them the option to draw a picture of their perspective instead of saying it to each other.

A: Assess alternatives to solve the problem

Next, have each child offer a potential solution to the problem. Have the children brainstorm alternative solutions so they have more ways to achieve conflict resolution. Each child should say the first solution that pops into their mind, then change or add to their solution in response to the other child's idea. The goal of this step is to come up with ideas that work for both sides without discouraging any of the children's ideas.

To keep the children focused, tell them to come up with two or three solutions.

N: Narrow the choices

After the children have brainstormed solutions, narrow down their suggestions to a few options and eliminate any unsafe or unwise solutions that are unacceptable to either child because they don’t satisfy their needs. This step helps the children develop their decision-making skills.

D: Decide on the best choice

The last step is to have the children choose the best option by thinking about the consequences of their choices. Ask the children to list the good and bad things that could happen due to each option. Have the children decide on the best option to solve the problem.

Once the children decide on a solution that meets their needs, have them shake hands or take turns saying, “I agree" and help them stick to their agreement.

The hand technique

The hand technique by Dr. Michele Borba helps children work through problems with simple steps. Have the child hold up their hand and give them a prompt as you point to each finger:

  • Thumb: Say what’s bothering you (the problem).
  • Pointer, middle finger, ring finger: Name three ways to solve the problem.
  • Pinkie: Name the best choice.

Conflict resolution activities for children

Try these activities to help your children learn how to resolve their conflicts.

Big problems vs. small problems

Help children learn to distinguish between big problems and little problems with this worksheet by Edutopia. Write different types of problems on slips of paper and help children sort the problems from small to big. Small problems have a small impact and few negative consequences. Big problems have a larger impact and many negative consequences.

Small problems for preschoolers may include:

  • A child playing with a toy that another child wants
  • A child sitting in a chair that another child has claimed as theirs
  • A child being excluded from a game during pretend play

Big problems for preschoolers may include:

  • Hitting, shoving, or biting
  • Name calling
  • Breaking another child’s belongings

Puppet show

Using puppets to act out conflicts can help children learn to empathize with others, verbalize their feelings, and predict consequences. 

Choose a conflict that your children have encountered in the classroom, such as taking someone’s toys or arguing over a special seat in the classroom. Act out the situation with puppets and ask your children to brainstorm solutions the characters can use to resolve the conflict so that every character is happy with the outcome.

Simon says

Playing Simon Says with your children is a great way to help them practice active listening, a crucial skill for successful conflict resolution. When playing Simon Says, children should follow a direction only if it is preceded by the phrase “Simon says.” 

First, give your children an action to complete that starts with the phrase “Simon says,” such as “Simon says touch your toes.” Next, give your children another action to complete, but don’t say “Simon says.” For example, “Reach up to the sky.” Your children shouldn’t complete the action because the direction didn’t begin with “Simon says.”

What might happen next?

Having your children make predictions during story time is a great way to teach them to brainstorm solutions to conflicts. When the characters in a story encounter a conflict, ask your children, "What might happen next?"

Encourage them to think about what could happen in the story due to the conflict and have them come up with ways the characters can resolve the story's conflict.

Final thoughts

As they learn and grow, children will encounter conflicts inside and outside the classroom. Teaching your children conflict resolution skills will help them approach challenging situations with respect, empathy, and understanding and develop smart solutions to resolve conflicts.

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