Supporting Children's Emotions

Preschoolers are still developing the skills needed to express and work through strong emotions

child and teacher looking at emotions chart

At a Glance

Feelings like anger, frustration, and sadness are a normal part of life. As we get older, we develop skills to regulate these emotions–in other words, we learn to bring our emotions back in check. Sometimes, adults misinterpret children’s emotional expressions as purposeful “acting out.” Instead, children are expressing their feelings the only way they know how. They need your help to manage their emotions so that they can get the most of their time in the classroom.

What It Looks Like

A quick glance at how you can help preschoolers handle strong emotions and provide support in the moment

Acknowledge Strong Emotions

Label, acknowledge, and accept examples of strong emotions (frustration, anger, etc.) with children. This lets them know that, at times, everyone may feel this way, and that these feelings can be managed.

Talk About Emotions

Talk about all kinds of feelings (mad, happy, sad, etc.) to let children know that these feelings are normal. This supportive foundation helps children to be better prepared to handle strong emotions when they’re feeling them.

Practice Calm-Down Strategies

Practice calm-down techniques with children before they’re experiencing strong emotions. This can help children manage feelings when they happen in the moment and respond to situations in appropriate ways.


Working Through Emotions

Young children are still beginning to understand, express, and regulate their emotions in appropriate ways. With these effective strategies, you can support children to build up their toolbox for handling big feelings and challenging situations.

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image of sesame street video on child trauma


A Child's Perspective of Trauma

Responses to trauma look different at every stage of development. When children experience trauma at home, big unresolved feelings may find their way into the classroom. Learn how Sesame Street Communities is tackling this sensitive topic and what you can do to support these vulnerable learners. 

This video contains sensitive materials and is intended for adult use only.


Tools to Talk About Emotions

Young children deal with many of the same emotions that adults do. This handout from CSEFEL provides caregivers with simple strategies to help children express and manage those emotions.


Using Social Stories

Useful for all but especially helpful for children with disabilities and dual language learners, this resource from the Head Start Center for Inclusion provides simple social stories to help children manage emotions and social situations.


Sometimes I'm Bombaloo

Written by Rachel Vail and illustrated by Yumi Heo, this story follows Katie as she experiences a variety of emotions from happy to “bombaloo” (very angry/upset) to calm and ready to play again. Strong emotions are a normal part of life. Stories like this create a space for labeling, accepting, and understanding that everyone feels strong emotions sometimes.

Activity Cards for Preschool Classrooms

Part of the STREAMin3 curriculum, activity cards provide simple ways you can help children practice calm-down strategies
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Breathing: Balloons

Breathing exercises help children calm down and become aware of their bodies.

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feel the beat

Listen & Keep the Beat

Steady beat can be a great tool for building focus, attention, and emotion regulation.


Mindfulness: Candle

This practice increases patience, feelings of calmness, and limits emotional reactivity.

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Yoga: Calm-Down

Moving through yoga poses is a technique for strengthening and calming bodies and minds.


Get Our Resource Guide

Includes questions and activities to guide your use of the videos, book suggestions, and activity cards featured for each of the Core Skills