Children’s Emotions Matter: Nurture emotional intelligence from birth
Early emotional awareness lays the foundation for a healthy, happy little one: emotionally, socially and mentally. Developing emotional understanding from an early age equips children with practical coping tools to deal with emotional issues, shaping how children approach everyday life pressures as they grow into adults. Young children raised this way, learn how to identify and manage their emotions, as well as developing an understanding of the feelings of others.
We all have emotions but children are not born knowing what emotions are or how to cope with them. Skylark Learning offers five top tips on how you can help children from birth to three years explore their own emotions, talk about how they feel, and learn to understand the feelings of others.
- Encourage emotional play: Help children to explore their emotions through play. For example, use a doll or puppet to help demonstrate physical reactions related to emotional feelings (e.g. jumping with joy, or cowering with fear). Children love clowning around, laughing and mimicking others. You could put on a silly voice, make a certain noise or pull an exaggerated face to signify different emotions. Interaction is key!
- Talk about emotions: One of the most important ways for children to learn about emotions is for you to talk about emotions with them. You could ask a child how they are feeling, talk about their emotions, and explain what causes emotions. You can also talk about other people’s emotions. For example, you could explain to a child that their friend is sad because she lost something, and that she is crying because she feels sad.
- Be responsive: Listen to and watch how children react to what you are doing – show that you are ‘tuning in’ to them and try to make sense of what they are saying. Affect attunement is when you show a child that you are tuning in to their emotions and feelings, by using your facial expressions, gestures or by making sounds that match their feelings.
- Give praise: Whilst accepting a child’s feelings, you will want to set limits on their behaviour. It is generally a good idea to give positive praise for good behaviour rather than focusing too much on negative behaviour – ‘catch them being good’ rather than ‘catch them being bad’! Give them warm praise (eg “Oh that’s very good, you are managing to be quiet – well done!”).
- Deal with tantrums: Validate a child’s emotions but remind them of the rules (eg “I know you are cross because you want to play with the tractor. But please don’t throw toys near other children”). After initial validation and boundary setting, ignore the tantrum, and ignore the negative behaviour. Remember to give warm attention for any positive behaviour.
My First Emotions, a new multisensory resource designed to encourage nourishing emotional development, is set to help children learn to understand and manage feelings from birth.
Click here to pre-order your own set on Kickstarter at a discounted price of £49 (RRP £69).
In what way does My First Emotions help with mental health?
Children who are highly anxious, for example, and don’t know how to deal with this emotion, are more likely to avoid things that scare them – this avoidance keeps their anxiety going; it doesn’t reduce it. So, it is better for children to be able to label and talk about their negative emotions as a way to not let those emotions rule their lives.
How can My First Emotions be used in a childcare setting?
As a nursery teacher, My First Emotions will help you to equip children with the tools to understand and learn how to cope with emotions, and teach children how to control their own emotions. Robbie the Rabbit can be used in circle time to explore different feelings and you will find a range of fun activities in the Activity Book. You will also have access to ten songs, which you can use to demonstrate different emotions through performing actions while singing along with the class.