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 Parenting Press®

February 8, 1997

Give Your Toddler Language for Feelings

by Shari Steelsmith

(In honor of the Family Channel's Seal of Quality Award given to the board book series Feelings for Little Children, this week's tip will focus on additional ways to teach toddlers about feelings.)

Tip--Build your toddler's "feelings vocabulary" with simple games and books.

Keep in mind--It's important to teach children ages 1-3 words for different emotions. If a toddler has words for what he feels, he will be less likely to have a tantrum. The child who can say, "I'm mad!" is less likely to strike out.

Link to book description

Tools--Read the Feelings for Little Children Series. These four books offer children simple ways to express feeling happy, mad, shy, and silly.

Feeling faces. Visit a toy store to find games and toys that have pictures, posters, and other visuals of feeling faces. It's fun to look at these with your child and identify the emotions being expressed. At first, label the feelings for your child, "That's a happy face," or "She feels sad, doesn't she?" Later, ask your child to tell you what the feeling is, or ask him to mimic that face. In addition to the Feelings for Little Children series, there are lots of books of babies on the market now, many with emphasis on faces and different emotions.

Make feeling puppets. You can make two simple puppets out of paper and popsicle sticks. Draw two corresponding feeling faces on the puppets--for example:

  • Happy--and--Sad
  • Scared--and--Safe
  • Mad--and--Happy

Make happy or sad statements and ask the child to hold up the corresponding puppet face. For example,

  • "It's my birthday! I feel . . ." (happy)
  • "I have a tummy ache. I feel . . ." (sad/sick)
  • "When a big dog barks at me I feel . . ." (scared)
  • "My daddy is holding me tight and snug. I feel . . ." (safe)
  • "It's raining outside and I can't go out to play! I feel . . ." (mad)
  • "My cousin is coming over to play. I feel . . ." (happy)

Make up your own statements that are relevant to your child's life. Have fun.

You’ll find more practical tips you can use right now in the Feelings for Little Children Series by Elizabeth Crary and Shari Steelsmith.

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