Thursday, August 23, 2012

How Do You Feel? Teaching Children About Emotions

Even at a young age, infants can express emotions such as interest, fear, disgust, joy, sadness, and anger. These basic or primary emotions develop in the first year. During the second year of life, more complex emotions begin to emerge. Emotions such as embarrassment, shame, guilt, envy, and pride.

Infants as young as 8-months can interpret the emotions of their caregivers, and as they grow older this ability gradually extends to others. Through a process known as social referencing, an infant can infer meaning by looking for cues in others' emotional expressions. For example, if mom displays a fearful face while little baby  is approaching a staircase, baby might think twice about climbing the stairs. Toddlers, however, often look to parents' emotional reactions to judge a situation after they have completed an act.

Ask Your Child: How Do You Feel?

Talking about emotions and feelings is important. Families should hold conversations and discussions about feelings, and share emotional experiences with one another. In doing so, children can actually better understand and interpret their own feelings and the feelings of others.

Need some help getting a discussion about feelings started in your household?
Try one of these books!
(Click on each for more info from

(my personal favorite)

After reading these books try asking questions or using statements such as these:

  • How would you feel if you {insert scenario from a book}...
  • What do you think made the character from the book feel {insert emotion}...
  • What if you {insert scenario from a book}...
  • I get sad when {ask child to fill in the blank}...
  • How do you feel when {insert scenario from a book}

Other household items that can encourage discussions about emotions include:

Dolls, Photos and Magazine Pictures, Mirrors, Music, Dress-Up Clothes, Artwork

Need more info or some activities? Check out these emotion-centered posts:

The Developing Sense of Self in Toddlerhood - Land of Once Upon a Time

My Friend is Sad {Book & Activity) - Land of Once Upon a Time

Kimochi Feelings Dolls - Pleasant Parent. Happy Child.


  1. Our family LOVES "Baby Happy, Baby Sad". "The Feelings Book" by Todd Parr is a great one too. Thanks for sharing your list. Pinning it!

    1. Thanks for stopping by Malia, and especially for sharing on pinterest!.


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