When your child is playing too aggressively without an obvious reason, it is completely natural to wonder why is my toddler so rough? Toddlers playing rough is a pretty common way to act out. You are not alone! We tackle the question of what to do when you have a 2 or 3 year old aggressive play issue asking our Kids Activities Blog community for real parenting advice.

If Your Toddler Is Playing Too Rough - toddler stacking blocks pictured - Kids activities Blog
Why is my toddler so rough?

When Toddlers Play Rough

This week, I received an e-mail about a toddler playing too rough from her mom:

“My 2-year-old started pushing other kids around her age two months ago. She is quite tall and big for her age so she is pretty strong. She loves younger babies and plays very well with bigger kids on the other hand. I felt extremely bad today that she pushed another toddler like 3-4 times in an indoor playground. That kid was obviously scared of her being near in the end and her mom scolded my daughter despite my efforts to correct the misbehavior. My daughter will be going to preschool soon, please help!”

-Mom of a Toddler

I wanted to reach out to hug this mom because I know how it feels to not understand something and not feel like you can fix it.  

In the meantime, here is some advice for when your toddler is playing too rough.

Don’t Panic! Playing Rough is Pretty Common…

First, know that you are not alone in this situation.  Playing rough is a common situation with young kids.  Often it feels like toddlers are acting out.  Sometimes it feels like there is no reason behind the behavior.  Either way, there are ways to make things better for the kids around them!

If Your Toddler Is Playing Too Rough - mom speaking to a toddler sitting on bed
Can you really talk it out with a toddler?

Strategies for Rough kids

1. If Your Toddler Is Playing Too Rough, Talk To Them

Kids are way smarter than we give them credit for. Sometimes just talking helps a little. Make sure you are even with their eye level!

  • Many times, toddlers act out in this way because they are limited in vocabulary, so it seems to be the only way they can communicate. Are there triggers that are causing him/her to act out in this way? 
  • Before playgroup, tell your friends that you are currently working on this struggle with your child. Being upfront about it can be hard, but help them understand that you are aware.
  • Encourage your child and remind them that they are kind. Speaking truth into your child can help them feel boosted in their mindset.
  • After a successful playgroup, praise your child and encourage through positive words!
Strategies for dealing with a rough toddler - distraction, preparation and entertainment can help keep smiles on faces - girls laughing
A little playtime preparation goes a long way to avoiding rough play between toddlers.

2. Teach With Your Actions If Your Toddler Is Playing Too Rough 

Toddlers pick up many of their social cues at home, so make sure you are practicing what you preach.  So if you are thinking that your 1 year old or 2 year old or 3 year old or 4 year old is very aggressive, these can help:

  • Role play at home with baby dolls. Act out different scenarios. This also makes for great playtime!
  • When you are home, practice kindness. Play with the stuffed animals and show how they are kind during a tea party, when playing outside, etc.
  • Be their example.  If you want something, say “I really wanted that, but I will not push you. I will just ask you for it.”
If Your Toddler Is Being Too Rough - discipline is a difficult solution - boy standing at wall in time out
Time out is WAY down on the list of solutions. Try the strategies above first.

3. Set Boundaries If Your Toddler Is Playing Too Rough

Disciplining is one of the hardest parts of parenting. Yet, boundaries and routine are necessary for a child to thrive, feel safe, and know what’s expected of them.

  • On your way to the playgroup, remind your child of the expectations.
  • While it may be frustrating, you may need to stay near her during the playgroup as you can intervene when needed. If you sense her ready to act out, you can remind her of kindness and how to interact with friends.
  • If the child acts out, have them sit in time out. Remind them that if they cannot act kindly, they will have to sit out for a time.
  • When your child does hit, stay positive and remove them from the situation. Remind them that you love them but you cannot hit others because it hurts them.
  • Stay consistent. It takes time to train children and a lot of repetition.

More Toddler Fun from Kids ACtivities Blog

Comment below with your tips on how to handle the situation when a toddler is playing too rough!

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1 Comment

  1. So the article addresses how to intervene with a child who is acting out, but what about a child who is simply playing too rough with no intent to hurt anyone? My son just turned two and has recently been moved up to the “Two’s” room at daycare. Since the move, and prior to today, I have been informed twice of him playing rough. Today the teacher pulled me aside at pick up and said that his “play” was so aggressive that they had to isolate him from the rest of the class most of the afternoon. They said he was wrapping his legs around other kids’ necks and would hit and kick when the teachers would let him no, that he was tackling and hugging students so tight that he was choking them. He doesn’t play like this at home. He does get angry when he’s told no or can’t have/do something he wants and I always tell him no, that it’s ok to be upset but never ok to hit or kick other people or that it’s not ok to throw things when he’s upset. But as far as aggressive play, I’ve never seen the behavior they are describing so I don’t know how to correct it. Any advice?

    *I should also note that my son has an expressive/receptive/perceptive speech delay…so he is only understanding what others say to him at a 1-year-old level.

    Any advice on what to do would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!