Teaching Emotions to Preschoolers

Learning how to manage and understand emotions is an important part of every child's cognitive development. But emotional development and teaching emotions to preschoolers can be difficult. Unlike reading and writing skills that you show children with an example on paper, teaching emotions requires letting them watch others and respond. This is how they can learn what kind of response is appropriate and how to respond to specific emotions.

A grumpy kid and an adult teaching emotions to preschoolers

While there are no flashcards or other types of learning aids, there are things you can do to make teaching emotions to preschoolers easier. While kids are little sponges who tend to grasp things quickly, it’s always important to remember to be patient anytime you’re introducing a new concept to them.

How to Teach Emotions to Preschoolers

Help them Recognize Facial Expressions and Body Language

Children need to learn how to identify their own emotions before they can pick up on the emotions of others. One way to help them is to have them pay attention to their own body signals. 

Have them be conscious of what it looks like when they’re angry, sad, or happy. Once they’re able to recognize it in themselves, they can recognize it in others. This breeds self-awareness at a young age and can help foster prefrontal cortex development.

Ask Them How They Feel

Part of teaching emotions to preschoolers comes with asking them how they feel and what emotions they’re feeling. You can ask them to fill in the blanks of “I Feel…” statements. Ask how they feel when they receive a present or how they feel when they don’t get their way. The answers to these types of questions can allow children to identify their emotions and which situations can make people feel certain ways.

Connecting Experiences to Emotions

Certain experiences can trigger specific emotions. Seeing an old friend after a long time can make us feel happy while seeing someone ill can make us sad. Ask your preschooler how they felt when certain things happened. This will teach them how to link experiences to emotions.

Use Games and Activities

We all know that kids love to play games. If you can use games to teach emotions, kids will be having fun as they’re learning. One idea is to take the game “Charades” and turn it into something that can be used to teach feelings. Use cards that have faces with emotions on them. This way they can see what “happy” looks like and how to act that out.

Another fun game to play when teaching emotions to preschoolers is the, “if you’re happy and you know it,“ game with different feelings. It can go something like this…

  • “If you’re mad and you know it” -stomp your foot
  • “If you’re tired and you know it”- give a yawn

Any of these games teach kids what to do when they’re feeling certain emotions. 

Label Feelings and Teach Emotions

Children learn by seeing, and emotions are no different. Teach them emotions when you’re feeling a certain way. When you do this, you can also teach them the right way to respond. 

Provide Positive Reinforcement

When you see your child positively express emotions, provide positive reinforcement. Praise your child when they express emotions in a socially appropriate way. This will not only let them know when they’ve done something good but will encourage them to continue to do so next time. 

Teach Children to Deal with Uncomfortable Emotions

When children get angry, they need to learn how to deal with these types of emotions. Teaching emotions to preschoolers involves teaching them how to resolve conflict peacefully. Encourage your child to take a timeout. This can help them to calm down before doing something that would get them in trouble.

Teaching your child to deal with sad feelings healthily way is also important. Talk about ways to deal with sad feelings as well. Kids don’t often know what to do when they feel sad. They may become aggressive or act out to get attention. Teaching them that sadness is normal and how to deal with these emotions is an important life skill.

Teaching Emotions to Preschoolers at Primary Beginnings

At Primary Beginnings, we also have lessons for teaching emotions to preschoolers. Our programs encourage children to explore their emotions in a positive way. 

To learn more about our programs, contact us today by filling out the form below to schedule a tour at one of our 3 North Raleigh preschool locations.