Children are learning about emotions all the time. Through their play, their interactions with others, and their own natural responses. Learning to recognise different emotions is a vital part of a child’s development.
Identifying a range of feelings can help them to learn to manage their own feelings, especially the big ones. Happiness, excitement, sadness, anger, jealousy — we all can feel so many emotions across the course of a week, or even within a day. When we can recognise each different feeling we are experiencing, we are better equipped to understand what’s happening and feel more in control of ourselves. It also means we are more aware of these feelings in other people, which helps to develop empathy and enables us to be more attuned to how someone else might be feeling.
There are many ways we can support children’s emotional development, and fostering their ability to identify a variety of emotions is a great approach. As always, learning through play is key, so let’s look at some fun ways to help children get to know the different feelings we all experience:
Get reading: Reading stories, especially picture books, is a fun way to explore different feelings. Point out the different expressions on characters’ faces and encourage children to use the story; see if they can guess what the characters might be feeling at various points in the book. You can look at and discuss body language too.
Talk about feelings: Encourage children to regularly self-reflect on how they are feeling. When you’re doing something fun or challenging or interesting, ask children how they feel. Share how you’re feeling too. Make talking about feelings a normal part of every day.
Draw and paint feelings: Ask children to incorporate feelings into their art — they probably already are! Make a point of talking about the expressions of feelings you see in their work and help them to see it too.
Use our free resources: We have developed a range of engaging and high-value resources for you to use that is perfect for helping children identify emotions. Children will love them and so will educators and parents! Plus, our emotions resources include tools to help children manage their feelings too and enhance their wellbeing. Head here to join our Facebook Group and get these free resources!
Remember, every child is different. For some children, identifying emotions can be quite tricky. Be patient and supportive and if you have any queries about a child’s emotional development, chat to other families and health professionals, for extra help if needed.