Toddlers are little people with big emotions. They don’t know how to navigate those emotions yet. Right from when children are born, they begin to practice emotional intelligence on the most basic level. As they get older, their understanding of the skill grows. At toddler age, children are learning more specifically how to express their emotions, how to regulate their emotions and how to regulate their behaviours which result from emotions.
Recently, Atlas has been giving A LOT of attitude. When he doesn’t like something that we ask of him he begins to stomp his feet, clap his hands, smack whatever object is beside him… you get the picture. He just doesn’t use his words. And then I realized, I haven’t been giving him the words to use in order for him to be able to do that. I decided then that I needed to focus on developing his emotional intelligence and teaching him how to deal with these big feelings. Here are some activities that we have been doing or plan to do to help Atlas understand his emotions better.
Reading books about emotions is a great way to introduce the topic to your toddler. More specifically, we like to read books with real children showing emotions. This allows toddlers to relate to the children in the book better and think, “They’re just like me!” The book Making Faces: A First Book of Emotions by Harry N. Abrams is a wonderful book on emotions that we have had since Atlas was a baby! Another book on emotions that is greatly helpful is the book Happy Hippo, Angry Duck by Sandra Boynton. It is silly and really can get children connected, understanding emotions as their favourite animal.
Assign Colours to Emotions
Assigning colours to emotions draws a familiar connection with toddlers as colours are something that are visible to them, while emotions may not be. For example, you can assign red for anger, blue for sad or yellow for happy, etc. An activity that Atlas and I did was draw faces on a piece of paper expressing certain emotions in specific colours. As I was drawing them, I took the time to briefly talk about each emotion. He really enjoyed pointing to faces and having me respond with the emotion that they conveyed!
Match the Emotion Activity
Toddlers are learning to understand and express emotions. An activity that can help children understand the connection is playing matching games with emotions. The book I mentioned above, Making Faces, is great for this activity! The book prompts children to look for the matching facial expression amongst a group of baby faces. Atlas hasn’t really taken much of an interest in this one, but it is something we are working on currently.
I love this Emotion Matching Game by Frogs and Fairies!
Emotions Discovery Bottle
I have not done this yet, but I am SO excited to try it out! I found the emotions discovery bottle on Pinterest while doing some searches on emotions activities and fell in love with it. Basically, it allows children to do something with their emotions physically. For example, if a child is angry they can play with the angry bottle that is designed to calm them down. Maybe add some sparkles or oil to mimic a calming effect.
Check out THIS POST by LalyMom on how to create your own emotions discovery bottles!
You can do this in a group, or you can do this with a mirror! Because we don’t get out to see other children much and Axel is still very young, Atlas and I use a mirror for this activity. How it works is very simple. We stand in front of a mirror and I say to Atlas, “show me your angry face,” while making my own face look angry as an example. It’s something new and fun and he really loves seeing me make different “silly” faces!
Try practicing recognizing emotions in everyday activities. Acknowledge your child’s emotions and help them navigate how it is appropriate to express that type of emotion. Toddlers are learning to regulate their behaviours and emotions. Let them know what they are feeling is okay. They are also learning empathy. As your child learns and understands more about their own emotions, they will easier understand the emotions of their peers!
How do you help encourage your toddler’s emotional intelligence? Let me know in the comments!