For this coming month, Lulu and I will have a little side unit to work on periodically. Even though learning educational skills is very important, I still think social and emotional skills take the front seat for kiddos at this age! That’s why we’re spending February learning about emotions and social skills.
A lot of this involves simple discussion to name different emotions and learning to handle them appropriately. But I wanted to come up with a plan that uses the different styles of learning to hopefully make it easier for little ones to process!
My daughter is definitely what I would consider a passionate person, so she feels everything very strongly. I want to give her tools to handle her strong emotions, without dismissing them. It can be hard as an adult to remember how overwhelming everything can feel when they don’t have our years of experience in dealing with things!
Even beyond a preschool unit, learning about emotions and appropriate social skills are huge parts of what kids are developing at this age. Their future relationships and self-esteem will be heavily affected by what they learn at this age. Most of this comes naturally, but having an open discussion can have great benefits!
Here are some of the activities we’ll be working on throughout the month:
What Should We Expect of Our Preschoolers?
Sometimes it can be hard to know what we should and shouldn’t expect at a certain age from our kids. For example, at times I have gotten frustrated because I wanted Lu to share more willingly with others. But she wasn’t at the age to even be able to understand how to share yet, let alone WANT to.
I’ve outlined some of the emotional and social expectations we have for our 4 year olds. Some of them are not skills that come naturally to them, so they’re goals to work towards during this time. It can be helpful to know what’s fair to ask of your little one.
Daily Emotional Check In
This is page one of the printable pack you can find below. Repetition is a huge part of how young ones learn. Doing a daily check in is a great way for kids to be consistently aware of their moods each day. Since most preschoolers can’t write out sentences yet, I’ve also included a box for them to draw out a visual representation of their feelings.
Expressions Play Doh Mat
Playdough is a perfect way for kids to physically work on different lessons. These mats from Mrs. Mactivity include several options of blank faces. Print them out and laminate for your kiddos to create different expressions over and over! Such a fun way to match a facial expression to a specific emotion.
Building Self Esteem Through Responsibility
It’s actually amazing how much kids can thrive when they feel significant enough to be trusted with a task. I’ll ask Lu for help with the smallest thing, and you can tell she’s so proud that I counted on her for something.
For this unit, give your kiddo one or two tasks that they are responsible for. Maybe making their bed, putting dishes in the sink after meals, or putting their own laundry away. They will likely still need some help and/or reminders, but try to let them complete their task as independently as possible.
Then, talk to them about how it makes them feel to have some responsibility. Including them in tasks like these not only helps you out, but gives them a sense of importance. Feeling like an active member of the household will have a profound impact on their self-esteem as they get older!
Positive Affirmations for Kids
This is another great way to build up your little one’s self-worth. In the printables below I listed 22 affirmations that you can repeat with your kids to remind them how valuable they are.
One of the best ways for kids to learn to deal with their strong emotions is to have healthy coping strategies. At this young age, a lot of it involves physical or active ways to burn off energy or build up emotions. And sometimes the best way for them to release feelings is to simply cry, and letting them do that without feeling guilty for being “bad” is a huge gift we can give to them!
Yoga Poses to Reduce Stress
This aligns with calming strategies, and I really love this idea from Childhood 101. Since kids are so physically motivated at this age, taking the time to focus on a specific pose and slow down a bit can really help calm and regulate their emotions. It also helps to make them more aware of their bodies, which even as adults can do wonders for reducing stress!
This simple activity explores what causes a particular emotion, and can be found below in your printable pack! The first part of the activity is to think with your little ones about some things that might make them feel happy, sad, or angry. See what they come up with, and it might even be enlightening for you too!
The next part has pre-written examples for your kids to consider. For each prompt, they can decide if the situation would make them feel happy, sad, or angry. Come up with other life examples if you can think of any as well!
Figuring out what elicits certain emotions can help them to be more aware, and potentially go into a situation with more consideration. It’s also a great way for us to learn some of the ways our kids might be affected by choices WE make that we didn’t realize.
Animal Emotions Clip-Cards
This fun activity is another way to help kids visually recognize what a facial expression means. Over at Tot Schooling they made cards with different animals making a variety of faces. Once your kiddo names the emotion on the animals face, they have 3 smaller animals below and they have to pick out the animal matching the expression of the one above!
Journaling Through Emotions
This is something I’ve been trying with Lulu for a little bit now, and it’s been surprisingly effective! She can’t write yet, but if she’s feeling a strong emotion (read: having a tantrum lol) then I’ll ask her to sit down and draw whatever she wants.
Usually she will start out by scribbling a bunch everywhere to release that energy. But eventually it will calm her to the point where she starts drawing actual pictures.
Once she’s calmer, we’ll discuss what happened and how it made her feel. It’s been a great way to calm her down and make her feel validated by talking about it afterwards!
To get more into the habit of expressing thoughts and feelings in a journal, I created a printable with some journal prompts. We don’t necessarily use these during a tantrum, but it’s been a great way for her to explore different feelings in a creative way. I’ll read her one of the prompts and ask her to draw a picture of whatever would answer the question. Then she explains it to me and I will write both the prompt and her answer in the journal so we can remember it later!
Make a Stress Ball
This is such a great idea from Make Your Own Zone. Adults benefit from having a stress ball, so it only makes sense that a kid, would experience a similar calming effect. This is a fun and easy craft for kids to make their own stress ball out of a balloon. They get the fun of making something with you, AND a tangible item to use when feeling upset.
Make a Kindness Rainbow
This is an activity my kiddos and I did several months ago, and it was AMAZING! We put up a hand print each time one of them did something that was kind or considerate. Over time it turned into a whole rainbow full of sweet acts! It was a great visual for them, and something I definitely recommend for parents trying to encourage positive behavior in little ones.
Bible Verses for Emotions & Relationships
I definitely recognize this one isn’t for everyone, and that’s ok! In our house, we spend time considering what God thinks of different behaviors, and learn ways to be better towards each other through Jesus’ example.
Between church, AWANA (a bible class), and our time spent reading and praying, Lulu has shown a lot of interest in learning more about God. Having bible verses to see where God acknowledges her different feelings has been very validating for her! So in the printable pack I’ve included some verses that we found addressing different emotions and relationships.
Learning Through Reading
Some of the best ways to teach a concept to kiddos is for them to see it in a book. Learning about emotions is no different, as kids can experience a huge variety of scenarios from their books. Here’s a way to make reading time even more effective.
The next time you’re reading, stop periodically to ask your kiddo what the characters might be feeling at that time. It’s a great way to explore ALL emotions- don’t only stop at the negative ones! This helps build awareness and for them become more considerate of how different situations might may someone feel.
The activity above can be applied to any book. But here are some of our favorites that deal specifically with learning about emotions or how to be a friend:
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The Color Monster by Anna Llenas
In My Heart: A Book of Feelings by Joe Witek
It’s Hard to Be Five: Learning How to Work my Control Panel by Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell
The Feelings Book by Todd Parr
We have already started, but are looking forward to diving deeper into learning about emotions this month! When I think about how overwhelming certain experiences must seem to little minds, it makes me want to do everything I can to help them through it! Then again, I definitely don’t always have a grip on my own emotions either. So it’s actually been beneficial to both of us to slow down and focus on them.
Click here to download your free Emotions & Social Skills Printables! And don’t forget to pin this post to save for later or share with other parents that have preschoolers learning about emotions 🙂