Little ones, Big feelings – Littlepaddington blog

Little ones, Big feelings  Back to Blog

Helping toddlers recognise and manage emotions... 23 October, 2018          0 Comment(s)

Before they can talk, children express their feelings through their actions: They’ll cry, or grin, or kick their legs. When they’re toddlers, they start to understand, why they feel the way they do, and to start naming their emotions.

Every day, your toddler is making giant leaps, in terms of labelling and understanding his or her feelings. These milestones are important, because when a child can recognise an emotion for what it is, they are better able to handle it. Our job as parents and educators during this critical stage of emotional development, is to have lots of conversations about feelings.

Once you’ve opened a dialogue, you can work out ways of anticipating situations that might spark various feelings and come up with acceptable forms of self-expression.

Here are a few TIPS to help your toddler learn about feelings:


When you see someone smiling (in person or in an illustration), say, “She looks happy.” Do the same for other facial expressions.


When your child expresses an emotion – name it. For instance, “You must be sad because you’re crying,” or “I can see you’re excited to be at the park.” Emotions like anger, sadness and disappointment can be overwhelming for young children. Naming these feelings, is the first step in helping children learn to identify them and communicates to children that these feelings are normal.


Let them know what you’re experiencing. Tell them, “I feel proud that you cleaned your room,” or “I’m sad that we can’t go outside, because it’s raining.” When describing your toddler’s emotions or your own, be honest and clear, to avoid confusion.


As your toddler is learning to identify their feelings, encourage them to talk about them. It’s important to take the time to hear them out, whether they are excited about an upcoming birthday or concerned about a trip to the doctor. The more practice they have about saying what they are feeling, the better they will be at identifying their emotions, and the less likely they’ll be to act out the negative ones.

Listen openly and calmly when your child shares difficult feelings. When you ask about and acknowledge feelings, you are sending the important message that feelings are valued and important. Avoid minimising or talking children out of what they are feeling. Recognising and naming feelings is the first step toward learning to manage them in a healthy and acceptable way over time.

FUN FEELINGS ACTIVITIES to try at home with your toddler:

Feelings Scrap Book

Make a book from construction paper and family photos, with your child or the family portraying different types of emotions (you can also use other illustrations). Let your child decide which emotion a picture portrays. Then have fun acting out that emotion with faces and gestures through dramatization. Your child can even help cut-out pictures or draw emotions in the scrap book.

Simon Says “Feelings”

Play Simon says with your child, substituting feeling phrases for the usual directions. For example, “Simon says, look happy.” In between each feelings command, you can ask your child questions about that particular feeling, for example “What makes you feel happy?”

Feely Faces

Make happy, sad, and mad faces. You ask your child how they are feeling that day and make them take the appropriate face and put it on a board. Encourage them to change the face according to how their feelings change, every so often.

Mirror Anatomy

Children love naming the parts of their bodies, whilst looking at a mirror. They will also enjoy practicing different facial expressions! Observing how they look like when they have different feelings, helps children to also understand the body language of others during different emotions.

Make Food Faces

Whether it’s rice cake, pizzas, muffins or eggs, food faces are a fun way to engage toddlers with feelings. Spread with peanut butter or use different toppings like raisins, peppers, chocolate chips, etc. to make a feeling face on a snack. Ask your child to choose an emotion and then ask them to convey it, through food art.

Song and Poems

Songs, Poems and movements help toddlers recognise feelings in an amusing manner. For example:
If you’re happy & you know it (clap your hands)
silly-shake your head
angry-stamp your feet
sad-say boo hoo (rub eyes)
hungry-rub your tummy
sleepy-close your eyes
excited-yell hooray (raise arms overhead)
scared-hide your eyes

Book a tour at Little Paddington and experience how we help nurture your child’s development.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Post


Subscribe to Little Paddington

* indicates required