How to support the emotional development of young children?
Kindergarten is actually a kind of preparation for future social life. Among peers, children gradually learn how to get along with others. They begin to perceive the emotions of others and practice empathy. On these foundations they later build the complex construction of emotional intelligence and interpersonal relationships.
However, to be able to empathize, children must first be clear about their own emotions. They must learn to recognize their feelings and be able to respond appropriately. This requires a great deal of self-awareness as well as self-control. It may take them a while, but eventually they will get there. They will need the support not only of their parents but also of you, the kindergarten teachers.
As preschool teachers, you play a big role in the emotional development of children.
You are their role models and teachers. You can move children in the right direction.
You can play a big part in helping them to understand and deal with their emotions appropriately. In doing so, you reinforce pro-social behaviour in children and help them to prevent any insecurities or neuroses.
To help you with such an important task, we have put together some strategies that are suitable for developing children’s emotional intelligence from kindergarten onwards.
Create a safe environment
Maintain a warm and caring classroom environment where children feel safe. Respect the child’s needs and treat them empathetically. At the same time, set clear rules so that everyone knows what is expected and what behaviour is not acceptable. In such an environment, children will not be afraid to express their emotions and will gradually learn to work with them.
Teach children to name emotions
Teach children to be aware of, recognise and name emotions. Give them full support so they can talk about their feelings. And if they can’t put it into words, let them express themselves through drawing, music or even dance.
When reading together, children may remember a situation in which they did not know how to cope with similar feelings. They can then revisit their experiences and reflect on them with distance. To introduce children to the colorful world of emotions, reach for one of these books:
- Tina Oziewicz: What emotions do
- Anna Llenas: Colorful monster
- Bimba Landmann: Maps of my feelings
- Dostálová, Jančiová, Vlčková: Emusers – Ferda and his flies
Emotion is a signal that something is happening. To help children navigate the situation, practice identifying emotions. Try some of these activities:
- Emotion monitoring
Place pictures of emotions at the entrance to the classroom and have the children think about how they are feeling each time they come in and pin their marker pin to the picture accordingly.
- Emotion masks
Cut the paper plates in half. Introduce an emotion and have the children identify that emotion. If they guessed it correctly, they can draw it on half the plate. The paper emoticons can then be used in other activities.
Ask the children to pantomime how they usually express joy, sadness, anger and other basic emotions.
- Emotion monitoring
It is not enough to talk about emotions, children need to consolidate the theory in practice. Offer them role-play, it’s a great opportunity for experimentation. During play, children have the space to practice their emotional expressions in a variety of situations and to find solutions to emotional problems in a non-violent way.
Always remember that children learn primarily by imitation. They observe how parents at home, teachers in kindergarten and other adults around them handle emotions in different situations. They then adopt the observed reactions as their own. Therefore, set a good example.
Teach children to calm down
Be prepared to offer your children strategies to calm upsets. Make cards with ideas for venting anger. Set up a calming corner with all sorts of goodies. Practice breathing, yoga or mindfulness.
Help children develop empathy. Teach them to feel and respect the feelings of others. Read them stories about other cultures and life perspectives, discuss together, let them work together to solve a problem. Also try one of the following activities:
- Emotional memory game
Make cards of different emotions, each twice. Give the cards to the children and let them represent the emotion. The children go around the classroom, acting out the emotion and looking for a second pair. When they have all found a pair, they check each other’s cards to see if they have guessed the other’s emotion correctly.
- Telephone game
It is important for children to learn to listen. Use toy telephones or make your own the old-fashioned way with string and yoghurt cups. Let children make phone calls in pairs and listen carefully to what comes out of the receiver.
- Journey into the unknown
Divide the children into pairs. One of the pair is blindfolded, the other leads them around the classroom or garden and describes the surroundings. Then switch roles. Talk to the children about the feelings they had when they saw and when they didn’t see.
Emotional development is an important part of children’s overall development.
Be a support for children and guide them through the messy world of human emotions.
You will give them a solid foundation for developing emotional intelligence
that they will build on for the rest of their lives.
- Emotional memory game
25. 4. 2023 | admin