Let Them Grow: Finding Ways to Allow Little Kids to Express Big Emotions

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Making Thanks Tangible

These ARE big feelings for little people. How do you get your child to express a clear emotion?

As everyone knows children, especially toddlers and preschoolers, can have a hard time expressing their emotions in socially acceptable ways. Young children love their parents, love their bothers and sisters and their families and friends more than they have the words to express. They cannot spend hours contemplating the complex feelings and compiling a love letter to mommy. They often don’t know that pushing and hitting and jumping on aren’t the only ways to show their friends how much they really appreciate them. With Thanksgiving coming, I thought this would be a great time to offer a few suggestions on how young children can acknowledge their feelings for the people that are so important to them.

By helping your child recognize their feeling for the special people in their lives, you are helping build a foundation of healthy supportive relationships. It is the special people in your children’s lives that help them grow to be confident and caring community members. Showing these people that your child cares about them can be fun, simple and mean the world to them.

Feeling Cards

By printing feeling faces on cards and helping your child identify these feeling is a great way to start the discussion about the significant people in their world. Have a bunch of emotional faces on cards. These can easily be printed from the internet or drawn on the cards. On the back of the emotion cards have the statement:

I am thankful that you make me feel…

Go through the cards one by one asking your child who makes them feel each emotion. Have your child identify one person per feeling, help them move through the special people in their lives. I am thankful that you make me feel…

  • Brave
  • Happy
  • Silly
  • Loved
  • Safe
  • Good
  • Important
  • Strong
  • Big

These are big feeling for little people, the complexities of the words are not what’s important; it is the complexity of the feelings that are. Your child has felt all of these emotions, but may have not yet had the opportunity to identify them. Thanksgiving is a great time to shuffle through these feelings and begin to identify what is really important; friends and family.

Four Feeling Turkey

Another fun craft to show the important influences in your child’s life that they care is the infamous handprint turkey with a twist. Everyone knows this crafts. The handprint is the turkey, the fingers the feathers and the thumb is the turkey’s head, the twist is simple; each feather is a feeling. On each finger simply include a feeling that your child experiences when around that special person. This is an opportunity to help your child recognize the sensations that each special friend gives them when they are together. This crafts gives you and your child the time to talk about why their friends and family are so special, what makes them inherently significant in your child’s life and how their life is better because they are in it.

Thankful for you Poems

Writing poetry to express one’s feelings has long since been a way that humans sort through their emptions and try to make sense of them. This will work for your little one too, with a little help. A great way for child to begin to understand such intense feelings is by being able to identify them with words. A fun and thoughtful Thanksgiving gift is to create a thoughtful poem. In order for your child to be able to create their poem, they will need the vocabulary to start with. Create a long list of feeling words and cut them out. Start with one person and ask your child to pick words that can be attributed to that special person. After your child picks the words that describe how that person makes them feel, have your child glue them to a paper creating their poem. On the top of the paper include the line “I am thankful that you make me feel…” and let your child sort though the feeling words and create their masterpiece.

Thanksgiving, it has been said, is about giving and not receiving. So give your child the chance to give back to those who give so much to them.

[Photo credit: (cc) Rene van Belzen]


Candice Chouinard has worked with youth of all ages and backgrounds, creating and implementing programing for children. She revels in hand-on, long-term, messy projects that are both fun and educational. Candice comes from a background in creative writing, as well as, child development and psychology. She owns and operates a day care in Northampton, MA.

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