Exploring a Young Child’s Emotions

Adults hold the key towards a child’s healthy socio-emotional development because they can direct the flow of their thinking and feeling towards having positive relationships in the early years that serve as scaffoldings for later in life. Thinking and feeling are like a pair of shoes. It is important to use both and have a result of an understanding and acceptance of how they feel.

The following are my insights as a teacher who facilitated the activity “Talk about it” found in Ellen Booth Church’s “Brain Based Activities for Young Learners”. Two groups of children, separately, experienced the dynamics of the exercise where the first group of children came from a private school and the other group from a public school.

An ice breaker “ice-painting activity” (no pun intended) set-off the 2-hour session to let the kids have fun as they paint the ice, watch it melt and observe how the different colors blend to create new ones. Sensory motor, observation, comparison, creative thinking, and expressive and receptive language skills were enhanced in this exercise. As they had fun, smiles emerged.

Ice Painting as ice-breaker activity!

Afterwards, the kids were gathered as a group and sat comfortably as the slides were being prepared. The kids were asked how they were, with a vibrant smile and expression of excitement in hearing their responses. Their reactions reciprocated the greetings as their replies varied in terms choice of words but generally veered towards the positive: Fine, Okay, Great, Good, Mabuti po. The question aimed to put the children more at ease as they start with the session, achieving a level of comfort to help evoke positive feelings towards me and the other participants. The following question was, “How are you feeling?” and everyone was, as it turned out, happy to be there.

Exploring emotions with the kids.

What will happen next was described, wherein they will be shown pictures and they will try to create stories about how that scene came about. In the first picture showing a group of all-smiles children, they were asked to create a story about it. For a while, they fell silent. Open-ended, leading questions were asked like, “what do you see here?”, followed by, “why do you think they are smiling?”, then, “where do think they came from?”, and “where are they headed to?”.

They came up with the following story…
One day, a group of students, who were not classmates, waited for each other after class at the school gate. It was Reyan’s birthday and they were excited to celebrate at Reyan’s house. They will be having spaghetti, ice cream, and “pansit” that her mother cooked for them. They had so much fun in the parlor games they played. After the party, everyone went home and slept.

The story was well appreciated by the group and in sum; I described what they were able to do. They created a story from one picture which, at the start, did not seem much. Other students volunteered in coming up with other short stories as well. It was followed by having the kids examine their own feelings and understand what causes them. They were asked, “how about you, when are you happy?” or “when do you feel happy?” Their answer “when we go out to play” was tailed with recall questions such as “when was the last time you went out to play?” and further explored by “why do you like to play outside?”, “who are your playmates?” what kind of games do you play?”

Another happy time described by one of the children was, “when we go to visit our cousins in their house”. A string of questions would call to mind happy experiences with family. They remember feelings of love and they remember good food cooked by grandmother. They remember their same age cousins with beautiful toys and dolls.

It is very important to ask follow-up questions that can help draw out emotions and map this from where it started and how.

The next picture is that of a crying boy. Apparently, as the children created the story, the boy was scolded by his mommy because he ran out to the street where he could have been hit by an oncoming vehicle. Other stories were; the little boy was locked inside a dark room and everyone left, the little boy scraped his knee, and the little boy’s playmate took his toy. Certain similarities to real life experiences were described after they were asked what makes them cry/sad. It is significant that the children realize that these emotions, whether positive or negative, are allowed to be expressed, that these emotions are normally occurring and can be induced by different sorts of events. In understanding their emotions, children learn to empathize with others and when enhanced as they grow, become compassionate adults.

Fear, shyness and excitement were other emotions explored.

Since they are the ones creating the stories, and evidently, their own emotions are expressed, each child was given the chance to answer, “How would you like the story to end?”