This is a very interesting way to teach little children about emotions, both the positive and the negative. Make little dolls or puppets with varied expressions on their faces. The expressions represent the emotions in those dolls. I have used paper dolls (origami dolls) for this lesson as shown in the picture below. The three dolls below represent three emotions- happy, sad, angry. You can make similar dolls for various other emotions and frames of mind such as disappointment, jealousy, excitement, boredom etc (emoticon images are available online in case you wish to refer).
How do you present this to young children? Just like you would show them pictures of animals, birds, vegetables, fruits, letters and teach them to say the names. You show a picture and say “this is an apple.” This lesson can be done in a similar manner too. However, it can be modified as per the age of the child.
- 2.5 to 3 years- Show the pictures of the dolls and teach them the names of the corresponding emotions. For instance, “This is happy”, ‘This is angry”, etc. After presenting this lesson for some time, you can ask the child to independently name the emotions as you show her the pictures of the dolls. Alternately, you can keep the pictures of the dolls in a line and tell the child to get you the pictures that represent the emotions you name. For instance, you can say, ‘Can you bring me the disappointed doll?”, “Can you bring me the happy doll?”
- 4- 5 years- You can play the ‘Identify the Emotion” game. Place the dolls randomly in a confined area such as the living room or in the classroom if done in school. Express an emotion on your face and ask the child to bring the doll that matches your emotion. For instance, when you make an angry face, the child looks for the doll with an angry face and brings it to you. You can also ask the child to guess the emotion that she sees on your face. Switch places after a while. Let your child do the emoting and you can do the guessing and finding. Another activity could be where you encourage the child to draw and colour faces or anything else that represents different emotions for the child. Let the child draw it his way. It is alright if it does not seem logical to you. Encourage him to talk about his picture and the emotions represented in it.
- 5 Years and Above- Mix several dolls in a box. Ask the child to close her eyes and randomly pick one doll that. You pick one doll too.Then tell her to write a few lines about her experiences with that emotion. She can even draw and colour a picture to match her story. Let her write all that comes naturally to her, while you write your own story or experience. Then both of you read out your stories to one another. Let your story be a real life incident that your child can relate to. This exercise helps the child understand that even adults have emotions and that it is a normal part of being human. If the child is not comfortable with writing yet, you can convert it into an oral exercise. Your child can narrate and you can write it down for her. Or she can just talk about it. It’s totally up to the individual child and adult. Do whatever feels right for you.
Teaching children about emotions from a young age makes them understand that emotions are a normal part of being human and helps them develop a sense of comfort with their emotions. It helps them express and understand themselves better, without feeling guilty or suppressed. And that is what creates a child who is emotionally developed.