Learning about emotions: why it’s good for children
Children feel happier and might cope better with problems when they learn to understand and manage emotions.
When your child can recognise and talk about strong emotions like excitement, frustration, anger or disappointment, they’re 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. Here’s how to do it:
- Choose an emotion – for example, ‘excited’.
- Talk with your child about a time you felt that emotion and when they 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 their face and body.
- You can take turns showing and guessing different emotions and talking about times when you feel these emotions.
You and your child could also try drawing emotion faces for each other to guess. Or you could 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 very excited about a party.
Adapting this emotions activity for children of different ages or children with diverse abilities
Give your younger child praise for trying to name emotions. If your child gets it ‘wrong’, give 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’. Your child will probably find it easier to connect the names of emotions with their own experiences.
All children learn and develop through play. Our articles on play and autistic children and play and children with disability are great starting points for adapting this activity guide for children with diverse abilities. You might also like to explore our activity guides for children with diverse abilities.