How to Teach Children to Put Feelings Into Words: 5 Steps
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Your young toddler can't tell you that she's sleepy instead of hungry.

Little ones can't always describe their feelings and this is a prime cause of meltdowns. Who hasn't been on the receiving end of a tantrum brought on by the frustration of not being able to tie shoes or eat candy just before dinner? It's easy to forget that children simply don't have the vocabulary to truly express their feelings, but you can work to improve that.


  1. 1
    Describe her feelings for her. Go beyond "happy," "sad" and "angry." For example, you might say, "You feel frustrated because you can't reach that toy," or "Weren't you excited to pet the doggy?"
  2. 2
    Read books about feelings. Picture books can teach children the wide variety of feelings that people can have. A book such as "The Feelings Book" by Todd Parr uses illustrations to show feelings, while "Lots of Feelings" by Shelley Rotner features pictures of real-life kids.
  3. 3
    Create a feelings board. The National Association for the Education of Young Children suggests having a visual representation of feelings that your child can use to show her feelings when she doesn't know the word. Create a poster with pictures of faces showing different feelings and let your child place a marker on it to show how she feels.
  4. 4
    Talk about others' feelings. Understanding and responding to other people's feelings is an important part of social relations. When you're reading books, watching a movie or playing with other children, ask your child to describe what the others are feeling. Help with words if she doesn't know.
  5. 5
    Role play different feelings. Younger children might simply be able to show a happy or sad face, but older children can act out scenarios. For example, you could role play a giant ice cream cone falling to the ground and the disappointment you'd feel when that happens or how you might feel when you open a present and find that it's just what you wanted.

Things You'll Need

  • Books about feelings
  • Feelings board

Article Info

Categories: Education and Communications

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