Emotional Intelligence is now widely accepted as a fundamental life skill which can be nurtured even in young children. Identifying, labelling and talking about emotions not only helps them regulate their own emotions but also tune in to how people are feeling around them. The following article provide strategies on teaching children about emotions.
- Play games that help them to recognize and identify emotions; start by covering your face with a piece of paper or small blanket and then slowly lower it down to reveal your face showing an emotion. Let your learners guess the emotion you are feeling after which they can have a go at displaying the same emotion with their faces. Once children get the hang of the game to, go for variations like Feelings Charade that they can play on their own. Allow such game to open up conversations on situations that might lead to such and such emotion.
- Make up songs about different emotions; for example follow up, “When you’re happy and you know it…”, with variations like “When you’re worried/sad/curious and you know it…” Sing familiar songs like “Row, row, row your boat…” with various emotional expressions – sad, impatient, angry and so on.
- Once children get a fair idea about the traits associated with various emotions, think of ways to identify such emotions in others. Story reading is a particularly useful way to do this. Use questions like “How does the Big Wolf make the little Pigs feel?” or “Can you make a face that shows what the Wolf felt when the house made of bricks wouldn’t come down?” to help children guess how the characters in the story are feeling.
- A more active way to teach children about understanding emotions would be to use puppets to act out stories. Let them identify emotions the puppets might be feelings at different points in the story and then encourage them to mirror such emotions with their own faces. Such games can also make space for useful discussions on managing unhelpful emotions, like “What do you think Goldilocks should do when feeling afraid? “ Make the process even more interesting by having the puppet model the coping strategy.
- Integrate emotional intelligence in daily learning practices. For example as children come in the morning, have them say how they are feeling and then invite the rest of the class how they might respond to a particular feeling. So if a child says they feel scared, a friend could give a hug or if someone says they feel happy, a mate could give a hi-five. Later in the day, support children in identifying their own emotions states – “it looks you are feeling tired; what can we do to make you feel better?” – before suggesting perhaps a nap.
- Eventually, extend the practice of understanding emotions from the self to others. Encourage your learners to look at each other's faces and think about how they are feeling. “Jamie, look at your friend Alia’s face – does she seem worried that you took away her play dough?” Use the practise to teach children to tune into others’ both positive and negative emotions and explore ways of responding appropriately to people around them.
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