Surprisingly, most people don’t think of understanding emotions as a school readiness skill. Daycares, preschools and families spend so much time emphasizing pre-literacy skills, such as developing a love of reading and understanding rhyme, and “academic-type” skills (e.g., counting, learning letters of the alphabet, etc.) that the majority have come to think that these are the skills that will make children successful in school. However, helping a child develop an understanding of others’ and his own emotions can actually lead to greater school success than if a child loves to read and knows all the letters of the alphabet and the sounds they make. Being able to understand his emotions will lead to greater emotional control and learning readiness. Understanding others’ emotions will lead to success in collaborating with others in the 21st century classroom, in which many learning activities are happening in groups.
The following list, taken from the ORB3 Infant-Toddler Curriculum, includes activities that can teach an infant and toddler to understand his and others’ emotions:
1) Talk about how others around the child are feeling (e.g., That boy is so sad because he fell down.)
2) Point out how a character in a story is feeling (e.g., The little dog feels sad that he can’t find his mommy.)
3) Observe or express a curiosity about others’ emotional state (e.g., I wonder why that boy is crying; I wonder how that little girl is feeling; Oh, that baby looks so sad.).
4) Relate a character’s feelings in a story to the way the child has felt (e.g., Oh, this boy is angry because he doesn’t want to go to bed. You feel like that sometimes.)
5) Point out how the child’s emotions affects the mood or emotions of others around him (e.g., That makes Mommy upset when you throw your toys; I feel frustrated when you won’t sit down to put your shoes on.)
6) Demonstrate how you feel excited because the child or others are excited (e.g., I feel as excited as you do!; That is exciting when you see the big, red fire engine!; Wow, you built the biggest tower ever!)
7) Express a wide variety of emotions to the child, including, but not limited to, happy, sad, scared, angry, frustrated, excited, nervous/uncertain.
8) Incorporate emotion into play (e.g., The dollie is feeling scared because she doesn’t know where her daddy went; The pirate is angry that the sailor stole his treasure; The bear is grumpy because he didn’t take his nap.)
9) Ask the question “How are you feeling?” or “How did that make you feel?”
10) Ask the question “How do you think that made ______ feel when you _________?” (e.g., How do you think that made Katie feel when you took her ball?; How do you think that made Jack feel when you wouldn’t play with him?; How do you think that made Henry feel when you shared your cookie with him?)