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Director’s Cut: Building Emotional Vocabulary

Hey, Ivy Academy Families!

As human beings, there are so many emotions we experience in a lifetime. Heck, there are many emotions we experience in a span of moments. 😊 Processing those feelings and understanding them is important for our overall growth. Unfortunately, there is no manual, and emotional understanding does not come naturally. Even the most evolved of us still have caveman tendencies. We all want to pick something up and throw it across a room when we are angry, or simply collapse or cry at the end of a long stressful day. While we feel it, our children actually do it. . .

That’s right, for young children, when words don’t come easily, they often resort to the only way they know to express their feelings - being physical! For Toddler & Pre-school aged children, this can be exceedingly difficult because they are just entering a formal learning environment and atmosphere populated with other youngsters who are also lacking in the self-regulation department. So, when the block tower tips over or a favorite toy is picked up by someone else, the tears and tantrums begin. So, how can we help our kids find ways to cope? Experts say the best way is to help them find the words. (Sign Language & Verbally)

It is vitally important to teach and empower children to use words to express their emotions. But of course, it is not always easy for them. They are still exploring their own feelings and encountering some for the first time. As parents & caregivers, it is important for us to help our kids develop a wide range of vocabulary for their emotions so that they can accurately describe how they feel. By using diverse and specific words to describe feelings, you can increase your child’s emotional vocabulary and give them many words they can use to describe how they feel to express themselves appropriately.

By intervening and teaching our kids how to expand their emotional vocabulary, they understand the subtlety of emotions. They learn that there is a wide range of emotions between good and bad, and that each emotion has cause and consequence. They also learn how to use the most appropriate words that can best describe their situation instead of throwing tantrums or resorting to violence to get attention. In this, we get to support their emotional development from early childhood to their adult lives.

So how do you get started helping your children build a big and robust emotional vocabulary?

1. Help explain the feeling: Start by labeling the feeling using easy words that they can understand. You can use picture books to pair emotions with facial expressions as well. Doing this will help them use a word to describe exactly how they feel instead of speechlessly crying or relying on tantrums.

2. Talk about your own feelings: Remember to also lead by example. Talk about how you express those emotions. As a parent, you are your children’s first & greatest teacher. They will mimic how you speak and what you do, so be careful with how you express your emotions. (Especially when you are frustrated or angry)

**You do not want your toddler or PreK kiddo teaching the wrong 4-letter words to his/her friends in the classroom.

3. Examples of feeling words: Try replacing some common feeling words with new ones to help grow your child’s vocabulary.

· Instead of saying, “I am feeling good,” teach them to say “I am” – delighted, loved, or contented.

· Instead of “I feel sad,” try “I am” – uncomfortable, worried, or concerned.

· Instead of “I am angry,” try “I am” – embarrassed, overwhelmed, or annoyed.

Enriching your child’s emotional vocabulary is a helpful way for them to put a label on their feelings and take control of their actions. It also helps build a strong sense of self at a young age, which can help your child succeed later. Let’s give them the tools!


Site Director: Larry Lewis


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