Helping children build a vocabulary about how they feel has a tremendous impact on their entire lives. As a parent or caregiver, you can integrate learning about emotions into your child’s daily routines, setting them up for success in the long term.
At One Place, all of our preschool programs prioritize social-emotional development. Through nurturing interactions with teachers and peers, children learn how to identify, understand, and articulate their emotions. If you’re interested in learning more about preschool and early childhood education programs, click here.
As we explored in the first part of this series, a child’s social and emotional health impacts their overall development and ability to learn. When children are socially and emotionally healthy, they develop important behaviors and skills that lay the foundation for their growth—including proficiency in literacy, numeracy, and other cognitive skills.
Parents and caregivers can help advance some of the work that occurs in the classroom at home. The quality of these early experiences and interactions are responsible for a child’s social-emotional foundation—and as a parent, you can implement a few practices into your child’s life to help them learn about emotions and feelings.
Young children experience the same emotions adults do: They get angry, frustrated, happy, embarrassed, sad, nervous, and so much more. Many young children, however, don’t yet have the vocabulary to properly express and communicate their feelings. Instead, they might act out in physical or inappropriate ways. If your child throws temper tantrums or fits, it’s likely due to the fact that they can’t yet identify and articulate their intense emotions.
As a parent or caregiver, start building your child’s vocabulary around their feelings. Many young children see most things as “good” or “bad.” Whenever you hear your child use “good” or “bad” in a sentence when they could use a more descriptive word that adequately describes the situation, try offering your child different adjectives that would fit. As your child begins to understand these new words and build their vocabulary, they’ll be better prepared to explain how they feel.
Ask your child how they feel and notice their emotions throughout the day. If your child is facing a challenge or problem, ask them: “How are you feeling?” If they struggle with the language to describe their emotional state of mind, you might say something like, “It looks like you might be feeling frustrated or angry about something.” You can also refer back to your earlier conversations about new words to reinforce their vocabulary.
According to The Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning at Vanderbilt University, there are several activities you can incorporate into your daily routines to help your child understand their feelings—and start to develop empathy for others.
Learning how to identify, articulate, and describe feelings and emotions is a skill that your child will carry with them throughout their life. To help supplement their learning both in and out of the classroom, we recommend the following resources: