Feelings are much like waves, we can’t stop them from coming, but we can choose which one to surf.Jonathan Martensson
Children have the unique tendency to express each emotion they feel as soon as they feel it. It is relatively easy for most adults to determine which emotion is being expressed by a child. However, it may be more of a challenge for a child to determine or understand the emotions being expressed by another child or an adult. Teaching children about feelings is a great way to help them relate to others and develop a sense of empathy.
There are a variety of activities that can be scheduled throughout the week to help teach children about feelings. Dedicate each day to learning about different emotions including happy, sad, mad, silly, scared and curious. Many kindergarten teachers use the station method to teach kids about emotions. We stole this idea for our house and have a play station located in our playroom dedicated to expressing the emotion of the day.
The silly station is for children who are feeling happy and playful. You can set up a dedicated table to explore the concept of happiness. Make puppets with old socks or paper bags. Have the variety of puppets ready to play with and allow your child to take a turn exploring the concept of happiness and how it makes them feel.
Ask your child what it means to be happy or playful and then ask them to act out these feelings of happiness and playfulness using their puppet. It’s super cute to watch puppets silly dance.
Another great suggestion is to have a craft time dedicated to making masks out of paper plates so the children can show their happiness at the silly station. (Actually the paper plates activity works well at every station.)
The cuddle station is for exploring feelings of sadness. Set up some blankets and stuffed animals and put up a sign that says “Cuddle Spot”. Let the children know that the cuddle spot is where they can go if they are feeling sad. They can invite you to join them to cuddle or feel their emotions alone with a stuffed animal.
Then you can ask the child what makes them sad and then talk about what they can do when they are sad to make themselves feel better. Give each child a stuffed animal for a moment of cuddling and ask them if cuddling can help change their feelings from sad to happy.
The steam station is a place where children can let off some steam and express themselves through play. Set up a small table with play dough, crayons, paper, glue and magazine clippings. Then while playing at the steam station allow the children some time to create a craft of their choice that represents how they feel when they are mad about something.
If during the course of the day a child expresses feelings of anger or frustration the teacher can allow him or her to go to the “Steam Station” to let off some steam.
The glitter jar is also a fun blowing off steam idea. Fill a jar with glitter and confetti and water, seal the jar tightly. Have the child shake the jar vigorously and concentrate on their breathing as the glitter settles on the bottom of the jar.
The scared station is designed to generate a discussion about what it means to be scared. Set up a circle time near a wall and hang up some pictures of things a child might find a little bit scary. It can be a picture of a thunder cloud and bolt of lightning, a photo of a shark or a caricature of a witch or monster.
During circle time, then the parents will ask the children what makes them feel scared and why. The teacher can also ask them what they do when they feel scared and then talk about what makes them feel better when they are feeling scared.
The curious station is dedicated to things that might encourage a child to explore the world around him or her. On a table place a variety of items that will peak their curiosity including a leaf, a Rubik’s cube, a book, a feather, a piece of clay, a plastic jar filled with marbles etc.
Then ask each child to pick something that makes them feel curious and then sit down at the table or on the floor to talk about each item. The teacher can also ask each child to talk a little bit about why they feel curious about the item they chose.
Emotions can also be explored through creative and artistic play, music, games and story time. Dedicating a day of the week to a different emotion is an excellent way to instill insight and understanding regarding the various emotions a person can feel at any given time.
Some other resources on feelings and emotions from around the web:
9 ways to teach your children about feelings by Kiddie Matters is a good read.
Very Well Family has an excellent article about using words instead of behaviors to show emotions.
The Disney Pixar Movie Inside Out is good for the little kids as much as for the older kids. Children are very bright and pick up the nuances of it all.
These emotion flashcards from Teachers Pay Teachers are 3 dollars and amazing. But I think it would be fun to make your own,
My boys get more emotional when they are tired, I do too actually. So you should check out my post on helping toddlers sleep.
Liz’s Early Learning Spot has a great collection of Youtube music videos to explore emotion through music.