Your child’s ability to share how he or she feels and to “use words” to deal with conflict is crucial for healthy social interaction. Kids also need to learn to think about others’ feelings and to recognize how their own actions impact the feelings of others. These abilities are especially important when kids start school and interact with their peers every day. When they have an argument with friends, kids will need to settle disagreements by talking through the problem and sharing their feelings instead of resorting to hitting and other aggressive behaviors. As a parent, you can model these positive behaviors and talk through problems with your child. By helping children understand their feelings and the feelings of others, you’ll help them have better communication and more positive interactions with you and with their classmates.
Help your child explore emotions with these easy activities:
- Feeling Meter–Because preschoolers may have difficulty expressing how they feel, using a feeling meter can make it a little easier. Cut out a long strip of paper, and then help your child draw five simple faces that express different feelings (e.g. happy, sad, okay, angry, scared). Write the word for each feeling underneath its matching face and keep your feeling meter in a safe place so you can use it every day. Ask your child how she’s feeling and have her point to the face that best depicts what she’s feeling. Then encourage her to tell you about how she’s feeling and why. Don’t forget to share with your child how you’re feeling, too! When we tell kids what we’re feeling and why, we give them the words to express their own feelings, while also demonstrating that it’s okay to have these feelings. We can also demonstrate what positive things you can do to feel better. The meter can be especially useful when conflicts arise between your child and a friend to help each child describe their feelings to each other and to come up with a way to resolve the conflict in a positive way.
- Color Your Feelings–This is a great activity to do if you notice your child’s feeling especially sad, angry, or happy. Ask your child to think about how she’s feeling and tell her to draw a picture using just one color that she thinks best shows that feeling. Encourage her to talk about the picture, asking questions like: why did you choose that color? What did you draw? Why are you feeling that way?
- Feelings Book–On different pieces of paper, help your child write the name of one feeling (happy, sad, angry, scared, surprised, etc.), and then have your child cut out faces from newspapers, magazines, or photographs that he thinks depicts each feeling. Glue the pictures onto the appropriate pages and, when finished, you can help staple the pages together with a blank paper on top to make a book. You can help your child write a title on the book and decorate it with pictures representing different feelings.
- Yummy Faces–Make faces you can eat! Spread peanut butter or cream cheese on a rice cake and use raisins, chocolate chips, nuts, and other edible items to make a face. (Pepper slices make good mouths!) Your child can create a face to convey any emotion he wants. After he finishes building a snack face, have him tell you about the feeling–and then dig in!