Teaching Emotion Words to Children
Children’s abilities to label emotions start developing as early as 2 years of age. Toddlers will first use emotion labels to describe emotions in themselves and then will later learn to reference other people.
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The number of emotion words understood by children doubles between the ages of 4 and 8 years and then doubles again between the ages of 9 and 12 years. These are the best years to teach children all the emotion words in their growing vocabularies.
Fun Ways to Teach Emotion Words to Children
- Play Charades – Take turns acting out different emotion words, with your face and body, and have another person guess the emotion.
- Watch Videos of other people showing emotions on their face. Try to guess the emotion.
- Play “How would you feel if…?” Create a story or scenario, such as “How would you feel if you broke your favorite toy?” or “How would you feel if you won a game?” See if the child can think of an emotion they would feel in each situation.
- Read books! Look at books with pictures of people and try to guess emotions by looking at their faces.
- Play with a mirror. Make faces in a mirror and try to guess the emotion.
Baron-Cohen, Simon, Golan, Ofer, Wheelwright, Sally, Granader, Yael and Hill, Jacqueline. (2010, November 25). Emotion word comprehension from 4 to 16 years old: a developmental survey. Frontiers in Evolutionary Science.