MOMMYHOOD: Helping very young children express their emotions
As my friends embark on their mommy journeys, I find myself sharing ideas and tricks that worked for me not too long ago. One of the struggles we had with our daughter was helping her find words to communicate her feelings. Children have many emotions, but they are very limited with their vocabulary so it is difficult to talk about what they are feeling. They might not even know what word goes with what emotion. This is one of the challenges of raising preschoolers and kindergartners. If you are finding that you have a very emotional child who gets easily upset and frustrated over things without much communication, here are two activities that really were helpful at our house. Now that my daughter is a little older, I feel that we really laid a strong communication foundation with these techniques. She really finds bedtime a perfect time to talk to me about things that bother her, and this was usually the time we would do the second activity I am going to share with you. So we pretty much got into the habit of "talking" at that time. I hope this will continue as she gets older (especially the teenage years!)
Activity #1, Plate faces: This was a very easy activity I came up with using paper plates. This is a great way to start teaching very young children basic emotion words and what feelings they are tied to. I used different plates and made simple graphic faces on each of them. Each "face" demonstrated a certain emotion, such as "sad", "surprised", "angry", "tired", "nervous", etc. On the back of each plate I would write the word out as well, just to get some reading practice in. A couple times a week, I would run through them with my daughter. I would put the face on top of my face like a mask and make some sound effects, and she would guess the emotion. It was also fun for her to put the faces on her face as I called out an emotion word.
Activity #2, "The Way I Feel" by Janan Cain: This was a wonderful book given as an end of year gift from my daughter's preschool teacher. The book goes through each emotion in more detail, including some emotions I never even thought about. The illustrations are just lovely. We would read this once a week at bedtime all the way through. Then we would start at the beginning again and go through each emotion, while taking turns talking about a certain incident that happened that week that made each of us feel that certain way. It is amazing what your child will share with you that you may not even know was going on in that little head of theirs. This exercise not only helps you bond with your child, but helps them get comfortable talking about their feelings, and more importantly, talking about them with you. This is so important to establish as your child gets older.
Please share other ideas with us! The more the merrier!