Learning about emotions: why it’s good for children

Your child will be happier and cope better with problems if she knows how to recognise and understand her own emotions.

When your child can recognise, understand and talk about strong emotions like excitement, frustration, anger or disappointment, he’s less likely to express these emotions through challenging behaviour, like tantrums.

Being able to recognise and understand how other people are feeling can help your child get along with others too.

What you need to help your child learn about emotions

You can do this activity anywhere and anytime you play with your child. You just need your face!

How to help your child learn about emotions

This activity gives your child practice with naming emotions in a fun, playful way.

  • Choose an emotion – for example, ‘excited’.
  • Talk with your child about a time you felt that emotion and when she might feel it too – for example, ‘I get excited when it’s my birthday. When do you get excited?’
  • Show your child the emotion with your face and body. For example, show your child an excited face, clap your hands, jump up and down, and so on.
  • Say the emotion while you show it – for example, ‘I’m feeling excited’.
  • Ask your child to show you the same emotion with his face and body.
  • You can take turns showing and guessing different emotions and talking about times when you felt those emotions.

Other ideas for learning about emotions

Try drawing emotion faces for each other to guess.

Use favourite puppets or toys to act out emotions and then talk about the emotions the toys are ‘feeling’. For example, a toy might be feeling too scared to play or feeling excited about a party.

Adapting this emotions activity for children of different ages

Give your younger child lots of praise for trying to name emotions. If she gets it ‘wrong’, give lots of hints. For example, ‘Yes, someone could be tickling me. Or maybe I’m happy. Do you think I look like this when I’m happy?’

Your older child will have words for more complex emotions, like ‘confused’ or ‘jealous’. He’ll probably find it easier to connect the names of emotions with his own experiences.