Ames, Iowa – Preschoolers have a lot to learn as they grow from toddlers to school age. Sheryl Clarke, a human sciences expert at Iowa State University’s Extension and Outreach, says emotional processing begins in preschool.
As children learn about emotions, adults can help them understand that all the emotions they feel are normal, said Clarke, who specializes in family well-being.
“Emotions are universal. Emotions can change rapidly. Child she may giggle happily for a minute and then start crying soon after. It’s common to have multiple emotions at once.
Parents and guardians can take the first step toward helping their preschoolers understand their feelings by naming the emotions they are feeling.
“Most of us are pretty comfortable naming happy, sad, or angry. It can also be difficult for adults to know what our emotions are called,” Clark said. With so much going on around you, it’s important to consciously notice and name your emotions.”
Clark provided some simple activities that children can do at home to help them name and recognize their emotions.
- Use facial expressions and body language to act out emotional charades. Act out different emotions and guess in turn. Add a mirror so kids can see what their face looks like too.
- Keep a list of emotional words on your refrigerator or bulletin board. As children learn new words, add them to the list. Or use the magnetic alphabet letters to spell out the words of your feelings.
- Share books to open up conversations about emotions. Through books, children can name and recognize emotions. We also learn that other people have feelings too. Books teach children how characters manage their emotions as helpful or not-so-helpful. Ask your local children’s librarian about good books to share with children, such as “The Way I Feel” by Janan Cain.
For more information on how to help preschoolers learn about emotions, see ISU Extension and Outreach’s The Science of Parenting resource.
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