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Toddlers are quite the conundrum. On one hand, they are little sponges who absorb every bit of information around them, but on the other hand, it is nearly impossible to get them to sit still enough to teach them the things that you want them to learn.
Let’s face it: sometimes it’s hard for adults to understand our feelings. Now, imagining trying to teach a toddler about how they feel and how to express those feelings appropriately. It’s daunting! And although it’s not always easy, it’s a very important life skill and there are a number of ways to do it.
Teach Them Feeling Words
Sometimes a toddler’s frustration about not being able to express how they feel simply stems from not knowing the right words to use. A good place to start is to arm them with the tools they need to express their feelings through words. Once they can properly label their feelings, they can better explain them to you.
Be a Model
Remember that kids pick up on verbal and non-verbal cues. Make sure to express your feelings through words to a toddler. It will both help them learn how to express their own feelings and get a better understanding of the situation. For example, you can say “I’m sad that Grandma’s gone,” or “It makes me happy that you dressed yourself.” They also see how to handle those feelings, so be careful how you react, especially in anger, when your little ones are around.
There are few better ways to deal with toddler emotions in real time than by playing games. There are so many emotions that can be felt while playing — happiness, anger, frustration, anticipation. Almost every human feeling can come out when playing even the simplest of games. Playing together is a great way to bond with your child while teaching him the importance of expressing his emotions appropriately. You can also sneak in a few lessons about other important issues, such as fair play and sportsmanship.
Watch Shows About Emotions
There are many programs that teach kids about emotions, but one of the best ones out there is Daniel Tiger on PBS. It’s no secret that kids love watching TV. Both sides win when the kids can be entertained for half an hour and learn valuable lessons about toddler emotions.
Tell Stories About Emotions
Some families don’t watch TV, and that’s perfectly fine. There are plenty of books about emotions out there to enjoy as well. Reading books together is a wonderful option because you can stop and talk about what you read, and you get some QT with your kiddo.
Another route you can take is to make up your own stories. Whether you write them down or come up with them on the spot, this is an excellent way to engage your child(ren). It also helps instill the value and teaching them the lessons you want them to learn.
Do a Toddler Emotions Check-In
Every once in a while, do a feelings check-in by simply asking your child what they are thinking about and how it makes them feel. Sometimes the answers may surprise you. sometimes you may catch them off-guard or even surprise themselves. From their response, you can build a conversation about feelings.
Point Out Other People’s Feelings
This is situational since you don’t want to point and talk about a stranger right in front of them, but it is a great way to teach your kids about feelings and empathy. If you see someone emoting in public, or even on TV, you can start a conversation by saying something like, “That person is crying, they must be sad, I wonder why they are sad.”
Make Believe Feelings
Kids learn through play so taking some time to play make-believe with your kids is a perfect way to teach them about toddler emotions. Grab some stuffed animals or dolls and put them in everyday situations that your toddler may face. Make the kid doll elicit an emotion like sadness or anger, and then have the parent doll listen and help the child doll manager her emotions.
Another fun make-believe feelings game to play is a guessing game. Make faces for different emotions and have your toddler guess which emotion you are portraying.
There are days that our kids can probably teach us more about feelings than we can teach them, but as parents, it’s our job to make them functional members of society.
There is no clear-cut way to teach our kids about emotions, but by using different approaches we can find the way that resonates with them best. Hopefully this list gives you a few ideas that help in your quest to help your toddler understand their emotions, and ultimately, themselves.
About Guest Blogger Samara Kamenecka
Samara Kamenecka is a VA specializing in SEO and writing, based in Madrid. Back in the day she packed a suitcase, bought a one-way ticket to Spain, and the rest is history. When she’s not chained to her desk working, she likes to explore the city with her boyfriend, their two kids and their dog. She has been blogging for several years, and she shares unique insight on everything from pregnancy gear to parenting tips over at Tiny Fry.