There are 6 crucial school readiness domains to think about when talking, singing and reading to babies and toddlers. Here’s #4 of the 6.

In the last 3 weeks, information about the three crucial school readiness domains of receptive/ expressive language and speech articulation was provided as a way for parents to feel empowered as well as to support them in digging deeper as to “why” the advice of “talk, sing and read to your baby” is so important.  This week, the focus is on the skills for understanding and using emotions, which are also necessary for children to be successful in school.

Emotional development is a primary factor in school readiness. it cannot be emphasized enough in the birth to 3 period of development.  Learning in any situation hinges on a solid ability to understand and use emotions appropriately.  Children from 0-3 years old learn to control their emotions, which leads to direct control over their behavior (e.g., a child who can say “I”m mad at you!” will decrease behaviors of hitting or throwing toys).  A child simply cannot be truly ready for school if emotional skills are not developed.  To be sure, plenty of children begin school without solid development of their emotions, but it is to the detriment of their own and their classmates’ learning success. 

So, let’s ask ourselves again:  why do we “talk, sing, read” to babies and toddlers?  It’s because these activities build connections in their brains that lead to the emotional development which is necessary to learn in a classroom setting.  The following skills are an absolute necessity for school readiness by the age of 36 months with regard to emotional understanding/use:

  1. Understand others’ emotions expressed in words as well as in facial expressions and body language.
  2. Talk about how others feel.
  3. Recognize why someone might be feeling a certain way.
  4. Decrease or cease behavior when it’s pointed out to the child how someone feels when the child behaves that way (e.g., When told “John feels sad when you take his toy,” a child with solid emotional development will stop taking John’s toy.).
  5. Observe or express a curiosity about others’ emotional state(s).
  6. Relate to a character in a story who feels a certain way because the child recognizes that he, too, has felt that way at one time or another.
  7. “Catch” the moods of those around him (e.g., gets swept up in excitement, frustration, etc. of others).
  8. Understand that his behavior affects the mood or emotions of others around him.
  9. Understand that sometimes he just needs to calm down or be alone until a strong emotion can be worked through on his own (e.g., by reading a book, playing with a soothing toy, etc.) and that being alone is not a punishment or consequence of “bad” behavior.
  10. Express a wide variety of emotions, including, but not limited to: happy, sad, scared, angry, frustrated, excited, jealous, nervous, uncertain.
  11. Use feeling words in the appropriate context when he is experiencing a feeling. 
  12. Express “why” she feels a certain way.
  13. Imitate “feeling” language when he heard it (e.g., After hearing “You feel frustrated with your coat zipper right now,” he says “Yah, frustrated.  Bad zipper.).
  14. Incorporate emotion into her play by having a play figure, stuffed animal, toy or puppet express emotions.
  15. Use emotions to get needs met without feeling ashamed or guilty for having feelings.
  16. Manage his emotions to control his behavior.
  17. Interact with peers and adults to work through social situations that involve emotions, especially tense ones.
  18. Able to switch moods effectively and relatively quickly.
  19. Demonstrate a passions for something (e.g., sports/movement, vehicles, animals, friendships/relationships, building/construction, math, etc.) by a clear emotional response when he participates in the activity. (e.g., When he sees a fire truck or ambulance, he appears happy and is proud/excited to share what he knows about the vehicles.).
  20. Use facts in context and deliver them with emotional impact.

To be sure, once parents and caregivers know the skills that are needed in classrooms to understand and use emotions after the age of 36 months, they are able to be more conscious about how to talk, read and sing to babies and toddlers from 0-36 months of age.  They can plan activities (or be spontaneous while feeding, bathing, etc.) armed with the “why” behind choosing certain words, certain books or certain songs which are beneficial and crucial to school readiness by the age of 36 months. 

Related resources regarding building emotional understanding and use in babies and toddlers for school readiness by 36 months of age:

**Check out the Operation Ready by 3 website at for more information about parent/caregiver coaching and classes designed to get babies and toddlers ready for school by 36 months and/or to contact Operation Ready by 3 with questions and comments.

**Follow Operation Ready by 3 on Twitter: @Readyby3

Cindi Zarpas Stevens is the creator/founder of Operation Ready by 3 (her mission) and the president of Norfolk Speech & Language Services, Inc. (her day job that pays). She is a mother of 5 (her unpaid, 24-7 job). In her work as a writer (her passion), she supports parents, caregivers and early childhood educators as they navigate Babyland and Toddlerland with greater consciousness, ease, confidence, expertise and joy. She thinks the best job in the world is talking to parents, caregivers and educators about babies and toddlers (they’re amazing, fun and adorable) about ideas such as sharing power with their child (it’s peaceful and positive) while at the same time having power within themselves (it’s affirming and empowering) to be the best parent, caregiver, and educator they can be in order to get the children in their lives ready for school by the age of 36 months (to make the world a better place).


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