Tantrum Series: 7 Playfully Effective Ways to Teach Kids About their Emotions

Kids often have tantrums and meltdowns when they are unable to express their emotions.

Many parents I work with often make the mistake thinking that they can ask their young kids to tell them what they are feeling. These usually end up with lots of power struggles, or upset kids. Often times, kids aren’t aware of what they are feeling and need to learn how to label their feelings.

Teaching them to label their emotions will help them to better express themselves to you and others around them. This is great for your relationship with them as well!

Here are 6 playful ways you can teach your child about emotions:

1. Sing the Emotions Song (If you’re happy and you know it tune)

If you're happy and you know it clap your hands...
If you're sad and you know it say "boo hoo"...
If you're angry and you know it stomp your feet...
If you're scared and you know it shiver and shake...
If you're sleepy and you know it take a nap (or close your eyes, or make a yawn)...
If you're surprised and you know it say "oh my"..

If you’re doing this with children with speech delays, slow down or encourage them to say “boo hoo”, “oh my”, when cued. Or you can simplify the lyrics by repeating the emotion word like so:

“If you're happy, happy, happy clap your hands.”

2. Make emotional cue cards

Take small pieces paper (they can be round or square), then sit your child down and draw a smile. Ask them, “How does this person feel?”. After they respond, ask them, “How else can people feel?” Make the face that correspond to the emotion - angry/sad/surprised face. Then draw the face together with your child on a piece of paper. Allow them to choose the color that they think represents the emotion.

3. Watch a child-friendly video about feelings.

Videos are great when used to engage children. Here are a couple of videos that I personally like:

4. Make it a habit to label the emotion that your child is experiencing.

For example, when you are home from work and your child runs to you and hug you, say, “Hey! Someone’s excited to see me!”; or when their ice-cream falls off the cone and they cry, say, “Oh no, you’re feeling sad because your ice-cream fell off” (then give them a hug!). Labelling their feelings when they experience it helps them to build their emotions vocabulary.

5. Show Them by Example

Children learn like sponges, they soak everything up that they see, whether it’s good or bad. If your child sees you yelling and throwing thing when you’re upset, they are likely to follow you. And if they see you handing your emotions in a positive way, they are going to learn to do the same. It’s not always easy especially when you’re a tired parent (like us!), but it makes the environment much more positive!

6. Praise Them When They Use a Word to Express Their Feelings

Positive reinforcement goes a long way, so remember to catch them doing the right thing, and praise praise praise! Be precise on what you are praising, like “I like how you told your brother you are upset when he called you names”.

Kids who learn to be aware of and express their emotions are likely to have less tantrums and meltdowns. It also helps them in getting along with friends in future.

7. Use the Right Toys to Teach Them


Toys aren't simply just for play, if use correctly, they can be really good tools for teaching kids to handle their own emotions. For example, a plush toy allows them to communicate some of their emotions that they might otherwise think is too childish and an adult would not understand; A marble run set allows them to focus on a task, and also watching the marble go through the course can help them regulate; A facial puzzle board teaches them to recognize feelings based on expressions, it also helps them to learn to label their feelings. Lastly a shape tangram puzzle allows them to construct animals or people and play around with expressions which is also a great emotional education for them!

Check out Gravity Main's Brain Games and Activities section for more ideas on toys that you can use to help your kids learn!


1 comment

Really enjoy reading your posts. I work in childcare and find them very beneficial. I have also bought educational toys from you to help them with their motor skills
Anne 😊

Anne February 09, 2021

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