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March 26, 2020

How to Help Preschoolers Recognize and Express Their Feelings?

Being able to recognize and express feelings doesn’t come naturally to preschool-aged children. These abilities need to be developed and practiced. 

In addition to the individualized support your child will receive from our nurturing teachers at Cornerstone Christian Preschool in Harrisonburg, VA, there are many steps you can take at home to help preschoolers to recognize and express their feelings

kids in preschool Harrisonburg, VA

preschoolers smiling in the Cornerstone Christian Preschool in Harrisonburg, VA



Teaching children from a young age about how to understand and manage their emotions is a valuable investment in your child’s future, as their feelings will impact every choice they make.

Children who are in tune with their feelings are less likely to succumb to defiance, aggression, and tantrums to express themselves. A child who can verbally express their anger is less likely to do so physically through harm to others or themselves. 


Although it can be challenging to teach kids about feelings because they are a fairly abstract concept, the benefits to your child (and to you and your family) are well worth the investment of your time and energy. 

And by doing so, you will help to support your child in their journey toward emotional maturity, which is part of the measure of “the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).



When it comes to helping preschoolers to recognize their feelings, here are some things you can do to teach them:

    1. Point out and give names to their feelings
      The variety of feelings your child experiences each day may not initially make sense to them, but you can help them to better identify their emotions by pointing them out and naming them. 
      For example, you could say “You look like you feel happy about visiting the park today” or “It sounds like you feel mad about your friend not sharing their toys”. This helps your child to develop an emotional vocabulary which will enable them to eventually identify their feelings on their own and talk about them. As early as two years old, children can be taught emotions such as happy, sad, mad and scared. As they get older, they will be more easily able to comprehend feelings such as shyness, frustration, and more.
    2. Discuss how the characters in a story are feeling
      When you watch movies or read books with your child, point out clues that indicate how the story characters are feeling such as the characters’ actions or facial expressions. This provides the opportunity to explain to your child why the characters are feeling the way they’re feeling. 
    3. Use visual aids
      A feelings chart and educational videos can help children learn to identify their emotions.
    4. Every day, ask your child how they are feeling
      You don’t need to wait for the right moment to help your child to recognize their feelings. You can make this part of your everyday teaching practice by asking your child how they are feeling and then discussing that feeling and the things that have influenced that feeling.
    5. Talk about your own feelings
      By calling attention to your own feelings and talking about them with your child, you can help them to better understand and name their own emotions. 
      For example: “I had a very good day at work today, so I feel happy” or “I am angry that our neighbor’s cat is destroying our plants outside, so I am going to discuss it with our neighbor.”  
    6. Teach empathy
      Young children can initially think that the world revolves only around them, therefore teaching empathy is a critical life lesson, especially for recognizing feelings. Talking about other people’s feelings is a great way to teach empathy. If your child does something hurtful to someone else, help your child to understand how their actions might have made the other person feel. 
      For example: “When you yelled at your brother for using your favorite toy, he felt sad and his feelings were hurt.”  Ask your child to imagine how they would feel if the situation were reversed. When your child understands that their actions and words can be hurtful to someone else, they will be less likely to go forward with those actions.


preschool in Harrisonburg VA



When it comes to helping preschoolers to appropriately express their feelings, here are steps you can take and things to keep in mind:

    1. Use your own behavior to model appropriate ways to express feelings
      In ways both good and bad, parents, siblings and teachers are extremely influential when it comes to demonstrating for children how they should identify, understand and express their feelings. 
      That’s why it’s so important to express your own feelings in a positive way so that in time, your child will learn to do the same. If you tell your child to use their words rather than actions to express their anger, but then you yourself slam doors when you’re angry, your verbal teachings won’t be effective.
    2. Provide your child with options for proactively dealing with their emotions
      In order for children to learn to resolve challenges peacefully, they need to learn emotional management skills. An example of a way you can help your child to proactively deal with an emotion such as anger is to encourage them to go to a quiet place when they get upset so that they can calm down before letting their emotions get the better of them.
    3. Read books with your children that provide them with coping strategies
      By teaching your child coping mechanisms when they are calm, they’ll be better equipped to utilize them when they’re upset. 
      Reading books together such as Little Monkey Calms Down” can strengthen your child’s abilities to appropriately express and manage their emotions.
    4. Show your child how to set things right again after an emotional outburst
      If you ever find yourself reacting instead of responding, you can use this as a teaching moment for your children. Apologize for your behavior and talk about how you should have handled things better. 
      For example: “I am sorry that I yelled when you couldn’t find your shoes before we needed to leave for preschool. Tomorrow you need to make sure to take off your shoes in the proper place next to the door so we can leave for school on time.”
    5. Praise your child for their progress
      When your child uses words to express their feelings instead of acting out through their behavior, praise their progress. Positive reinforcement of your child’s choice of words over actions to express their feelings encourages them to continue this practice in the future.
      It also gives them the assurance that you are paying attention to them and giving them your encouragement.
    6. Teach your child that emotions are neither right or wrong
      Don’t diminish children for their feelings. Otherwise, you teach them that feelings are bad or should be hidden. 
      By instead using positive guidance such as “I can see you are sad that Grandma is going home now, but you need to say goodbye to her” or “I know you are hurt that your brother won’t share his toy, but you can play with another toy now instead” you can help your child to learn that it’s okay to feel their feelings, but that they need to properly express them. 
      The apostle Paul affirms this in Ephesians 4:6 with the statement, “In your anger do not sin… ” According to Paul, anger only precedes sinful behavior—feeling anger as an emotion is completely normal and acceptable so long as you do not act on it in a negative way.


Preschool is a place for children to learn and begin to develop the skills needed to succeed in school. Studies show that children learn best by being immersed in a hands-on environment, rich with language and concrete experiences. 

Our Preschool in Harrisonburg, VA provides a learning environment that lays a strong foundation for more formal instruction in Kindergarten through 8th grade. We invite you to
visit Cornerstone Christian School to experience our school for yourself and to meet our teachers and school leadership.