Toddler Emotions: Sad About Sparky

In this video, 40-month old Sam demonstrates his solid development of emotional expression. The video shows how Sam’s voice (e.g., pitch, volume, intonation), facial expression and word choice come together seamlessly to express his thoughts and feelings to me about his fire station dog, Sparky, becoming old. Thankfully, Sam was not overtaken by his sad feelings about Sparky, but was instead able to switch comfortably between emotions. When the topic changed quickly to his inappropriate tasting of his nose drippings (ew!), he was able to switch his emotional expression appropriately to happiness. However, he was then able to switch immediately back to the emotional topic of feeling sad about his stuffed animal becoming “old.” Of course, this toddler emotional roller coaster is part of his development as he learns to regulate and control his emotions.

Emotional expression is a key school readiness skill. By successfully integrating voice, facial expression and language content, Sam’s “school” audience (e.g., teachers, peers, principal, guidance counselor, cafeteria assistants, etc.) will understand him well enough to be able to help him in whatever way is possible. He will have confidence in expressing emotions during his school day, as he does at home, because it has been part of his experience since his earliest days of development. He will demonstrate fewer behavior problems in school as he tells others how he is feeling and about what is upsetting him. His relationships with peers and adults will be on solid footing as he is able to express an idea that is heavy with emotion, no matter if he is feeling happy, sad, angry, frustrated or scared. He will be better able to understand and express emotion in written language, as when he reads about a character’s struggles in a story or writes about his own difficulties in a journal activity.

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