learning about emotions

New Year’s Resolution Words: Role Feelings Play in Learning

As parents and caregivers, we don’t get a chance to see the tremendous role feelings play in learning. For this series of New Year’s resolutions in just one word, this post is brought to you by feelings. And, the play-of-the-day is having fun with feelings.

shape art activities for kids

What are some ways for your child’s playing and learning with feelings? To kids, stuffies and toys are special friends. Kids talk to them, give them names, and pretend they are almost alive. If we notice a stuffie or toy all alone in a corner, we can also talk to it. For instance, we might ask, “Oh, are you feeling lonely and scared over there? Would you like to be with the rest? “ You can even answer in the toy’s voice. Instead of seize the day, parenting is often seize the moment.

Another effective way to help kids figure out feelings and emotions is to name them, both theirs and ours. We can talk about how excited we are about, for instance, an upcoming trip. Or, perhaps we are quite frustrated with trying to get something to work, like the computer. Hearing us explain we are feeling so frustrated we’d like to scream but instead will try again gives kids a positive model for a time when they might need it.

Reading faces for feelings and emotions is a powerful skill. We can tell what another person is feeling and better predict a response by checking out the facial expression. Here is a silly song for practicing. Sing the verse and make the face to go with the words. Use whatever you think of: sad, angry, happy, lonely, frustrated, surprised, confused. Of course, younger kids may not know as many feeling-words as the older ones.

This is the way we make a face, make a face, make a face.
This is the way we make a face, when we’re feeling sad.

This is the way we make a face, make a face, make a face.
This is the way we make a face, when we’re feeling mad.

This is the way we make a face, make a face, make a face.
This is the way we make a face, when we’re feeling happy.

faces emotions with fruit snack

Games, crafts, and books are other resources. As humans we are hard-wired to connect our brains and our heart. Our words divide brains and emotions into two groups, often opposing. We place value on being objective instead of subjective. In reality, what we learn and how we learn is vastly influenced by emotions. The role feelings play in learning needs to be acknowledged. For a new year’s play-of-the-day, can you include some feelings and emotions?

Helping Kids With Self-Regulation – Fire OK for Dragons, Not Kids

Dragons aren’t very good controlling their emotions. They just breathe fire. Helping kids with self-regulation is easier than helping dragons. It’s okay for dragons to breathe fire, but not kids.

helping children with self-regulation

Self-regulation is the ability and skills to control our emotions, motivation, and attention or focus. It affects all of us for our whole life and it’s crucial to support children to develop a strong emotional core during the early years.

When it comes to feelings, besides understanding them, a big challenge for kids is how to regulate their own emotions. When dragons are angry they can breathe fire and roar. Is it okay for kids to breathe fire and roar at people? No, that’s not such a good choice.

emotional challenges

Tantrums, melt-downs, and losing it, are pretty fiery but they aren’t good choices either. Kids don’t come pre-equipped with the skills and understanding to handle strong feelings. This is something they need to learn. Helping kids with self-regulation involves parents, caregivers, and other adults.

Children will learn from watching us as we go about everyday activities and interact with others. It helps if we can explain what we are feeling. Here’s an example. Last week, when packing for a short trip, the zipper broke on the suitcase. After biting my tongue so I didn’t say a bad word, I used words and tone of voice and said, “Oh, how frustrating! Now, I’ll have to change suitcases. This is a problem and I feel like screaming. Guess, I’ll take a deep breath and see if I can calm myself down.” When you do this, you are giving your child the words for an inner voice and the example of what to do.

empathy and imagination

We can also give kids hints, reminders, or clues. For example, we might say to a child, “You look upset. Would you like to ask someone for help?” If a child is having difficulty with a toy, we can ask them if they’d like to take a break for a minute or two and come back. Kids can use the hints for their actions. This way they can practice making the choice. Physical touch, like rubbing a child’s back, or giving a hand a squeeze can be effective reminders for calming down.

Waiting can be hard for adults, so it’s understandable it’s especially hard for kids. Strategies like looking at a book, singing songs, or playing an I Spy game can make waiting much easier. Speaking of books, there are many books and stories you can share for helping kids with self-regulation. Libraries will likely have some you can borrow.

helping kids with self-regulation

In any day, there will be countless challenges for kids to cope with their emotions. They need to know it’s okay to have strong feelings. They might even feel like they have a fire inside. But, who would want to negotiate with a dragon?

Dragon Fun and Learning: Helping Kids With Feelings and Fears

Helping kids with feelings and fears can be quite a challenge.  Some resources can be their own toys, including dragons, and their activities as we guide them to understand feelings and cope with fears. There are both friendly and fierce-looking dragons.

dragons feelings fears kids

Dragons are big, scary creatures. While they don’t exist in real life, in a way they exist in the mind. Children have powerful imaginations and what they imagine can generate deep feelings. Despite have big teeth and being able to breathe fire, knights often fight with dragons. Knights are brave. When kids are playing with dragons we can ask them if they are afraid of dragons or if they are brave. What does brave feel like?

We can ask kids to show us what scared and brave would look like. As we watch kids, we should be able to see a difference. Usually, they strike poses and are pretty dramatic. This gives us an idea if kids are able to match words to appropriate feelings. There are so many feelings and words to figure out that it’s easy to get them confused.

Sometimes, there are situations when we need to ask children if they can be brave, such as letting a doctor look at and touch an injury. It’s helpful if we can give them an example, like asking them to be brave like a knight that has to stand up to a scary dragon. Let them know it’s okay to still feel scared. Being brave is a way to handle those feelings.

Not only do kids need to learn about their own feelings, but about other people’s too. One way to do that is to look at faces. Faces can tell us about other people. Make some silly faces together.

feelings fears faces kids

Have you ever asked your child to show you a mad face or a happy face? Those are pretty easy. Check for a sad, worried, surprised, and scared face too. A huge part of communication happens without any words. No wonder we need lots of resources for helping kids with feelings and fears. What kind of dragon or people faces can you make?

Before I Go to Kindergarten #8: Feelings and Emotions for Kids

Feelings and emotions for kids is proving to impact their time and achievement at school more than we realized. Kids need our support and example early.  Long before kindergarten, at home, daycare, play programs, and preschool. The following is a post from an earlier series. There is a tendency to focus on academics and think … Continue reading Before I Go to Kindergarten #8: Feelings and Emotions for Kids

October Alphabet: E is for Emotional and Social Skills

The early years are especially sensitive for learning emotional and social skills and this time of year highlights many of them. October is a unique month in the calendar and in the life of a child. It is the only time  where so many people are all enjoying being scared. With scary faces, costumes, and … Continue reading October Alphabet: E is for Emotional and Social Skills

Educating the Mind, Heart, and Body of Young Children

Where is the Mind, Anyway? Last week, I heard an interview with Sam Keane, author of a new book called “The Tale of The Dueling Neurosurgeons.” In his book, he explains that for much of history, the mind was considered to be located not within the brain but within the heart. Unfortunately, it seems that … Continue reading Educating the Mind, Heart, and Body of Young Children

Kindergarten Readiness As Easy As 1 2 3 … #6

In this brand new year, will your child be starting kindergarten? Are you asking, “Will my child be ready for kindergarten?” “What is kindergarten readiness anyway?” Could you use some answers? This is a series of posts that looks at some of the basics of getting your child ready to start kindergarten. Having some understanding … Continue reading Kindergarten Readiness As Easy As 1 2 3 … #6

Connecting to Emotions Key for Kindergarten Readiness

Parents and caregivers often ask what is most important for kindergarten readiness and are surprised when I answer “Social and emotional skills.” They are expecting an answer about academics but children learn best when they are comfortable and confident. How can kids be eager to participate and learn when they are worried and anxious? The … Continue reading Connecting to Emotions Key for Kindergarten Readiness