Encouraging Emotional Development in Preschoolers



By Sinead Hamill


If you’re struggling to keep your composure after all the tantrums your child threw during the ‘terrible twos’ stage, you can relax a little. By the time children go to preschool they are learning new ways to express themselves. Their vocabulary, though still limited is increasing, helping them to communicate their feelings and reduce the frustrations of being misunderstood. Their sense of empathy is developing, so you can now begin reasoning with them. However their egos still rule the roost so preschoolers will occasionally lash out to get their way. It’s our responsibility as adults to show them appropriate ways of behaving. With developing senses of humour preschoolers love to make simple jokes, which they will find hilarious. On the flip side, seemingly trivial issues can cause them to burst out crying. This is a very sensitive stage of development and children need our positive support to work through it successfully.    


So here are a few tips and activities to make sure there are more smiles than tears:

  • Develop daily routines: Your child will learn to pre-empt activities, helping them feel safe, stable and relatively in control of their actions.

  •  Model Desirable Behaviour: As your child’s main role model, be aware of your own behaviours and reactions to situations. 

  • Story Time: Reading to your child gives you the opportunity to present situations and behaviours in a safe, calm environment. Discuss the issues presented in the story and how the characters dealt with them. Encourage your child’s understanding of emotions by asking questions about the story such as ‘How do you think Max felt when the dog growled at him?’  

  • Imaginary Play: Dressing up, puppets, dolls, real and imaginary friends are all ways which will help your child to develop emotionally. Through dramatic play they are safe to explore a variety of social roles and scenarios.

  • Drama: Playing games such as ‘Charades’ is a great way to introduce new vocabulary. Act out a variety of emotions and have your child guess the mimes. Give them a turn too!

  • Space: Children learn through experience. Give them the space to sort their own issues. They will develop successful conflict resolutions skills, confidence and positive self-esteem.

  • Art: Not only a fantastic emotional outlet for children, it also gives you great insight into their minds. If you manage to put all of this into practice, there’s at least one emotion you won’t be feeling – BOREDOM!  

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