Five Ways To Help Toddlers Express Their Emotions

by | February 12, 2018

Healthy Methods to Channel Emotions

Chances are that your 2-year-old has a lot of emotions– and expressing those feelings isn’t always easy.
These simple activities are a great way to spend quality time with your child, and will help her or him learn about feelings and about ways to express those feelings.

Try Not to Minimize their Feelings

Avoid talking children out of their feelings. This is a natural reaction—we just want to make the bad feelings go away. “Don’t be sad. You’ll see Joey another day.” But feelings don’t go away; they need to be expressed one way or another. Acknowledging a child’s strong feelings opens the door to helping her learn how to cope with them. “You are sad Joey has to leave. You love playing with him.  Let’s go to the window to wave goodbye and make a plan to see him again soon.” When feelings are minimized or ignored, they often get expressed through aggressive words and actions, or by turning them inward, which can ultimately make children anxious or depressed.

Feel the Emotions

If your 18-month-old is angry that playtime is over, guide her to stamp her feet as hard as she can or to draw how angry she is with a red crayon. Help a two-year-old who is frustrated at not being able to get the ball into the basket brainstorm other ways to solve the problem. Take a three-year-old who is fearful about starting a new school to visit his classroom beforehand to meet the teachers and play on the playground so that the unfamiliar can become familiar.

Emotion Rollercoasters

As your child experiences emotions, this fun activity may help him or her attribute a name to each feeling.
Draw faces on white paper plates, each one expressing a different feeling: scared, sleepy, glad, mad, etc.
As you read with your child today, pull out the appropriate paper plate face showing the corresponding emotion felt by the characters in the book. Hold the paper plate up to your face and talk about the feeling. Mimic the face yourself and have your child do the same. “How do you look when you’re sad?”
You can use the paper plate faces during times your child shows a similar emotion.
Take photos of your child expressing the emotions and place on the plate.

Special People

Children need special people in their lives that care about them.
Place photos of the special people in your child’s life that care on a bulletin board. Put the person’s name under each picture.
Let your child know each day that these people care for him or her! This will help your child to understand the feelings of love and caring.

Expressing Emotions

It is healthy for children to express emotions in a healthy way.
Locate three wooden spoons and draw faces depicting: happy, sad, and mad. You and your child may want to decorate the spoons with hair, a mustache, a tie, or an outfit.
Have the spoons in a convenient place for your child. Encourage your child to share emotions with the spoons that match what they are feeling.

Our children’s emotional reactions trigger our own emotional reactions, which can lead to a knee-jerk need to rescue or “fix” whatever is causing our child distress. But it’s important that we manage our own feelings and avoid this temptation, as it creates a missed opportunity to help children learn strong coping skills. Instead, see these experiences as teachable moments to help your child learn to name and manage the emotions—positive and negative—that add depth and color to our lives. Show your child that a full, rich life means experiencing both the ups and the downs. Feelings are not “good” or “bad”—they just are. You are your child’s guide in sharing the joys and coping with the challenges. And it starts on day one.

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