Effective Practice Guides

Emotional Functioning: Do


Try the following practices with infants and toddlers and preschool-aged children. Find out how home visitors can put these practices to work with families.

Infants and Toddlers

  • Make feelings part of your everyday conversation with an infant or very young child. “Listen to the sound your rattle makes. Do you like that? You do!” or “I know you don’t like feeling cold and wet. Let’s get you a fresh, clean diaper.”
  • Validate both positive and negative emotions. “Lisette, you built a tall tower! The smile on your face shows me you’re proud.” “Josh, I know you’re upset because it’s time to come in. You love being outside! Can you help me put your coat and mittens away so they’re ready for next time?”
  • Describe what you’re seeing and doing when a child is upset so children can learn to recognize these cues and offer similar comfort. “Tarik bumped his knee and he’s crying. Let’s get him some ice to put on his boo-boo.”
  • Offer options when a child is upset, such as a blanket, a hug, or a quiet place to regroup. Describe what’s happening by saying things like, “A quiet place makes it easier to calm down,” so children can begin to understand the strategies that work for them.


  • Pause before you react to an incident in the setting; for example, a disagreement over a turn on the slide. Ask the children who were involved how they feel about what has happened. This acknowledges children’s feelings and also gives you a moment to figure out how you want to respond.
  • Encourage children to notice each other’s feelings and suggest ways to help. “Jared, can you slide a little this way? Samantha is building something with blocks and looks worried that it may get knocked over.”
  • Anticipate what might happen in a new situation and provide reassurance that will help children manage emotions. For example, “We have new supplies in the art center, and I know you will all want to try them out. Don’t worry. Everyone will get a turn at some point during center time.”

Home Visitors

Home visitors can support parents in identifying, adapting, and trying the practices listed above during home visits and group socializations. Here are more ideas:

  • Share with parents how helpful it is when they respond sensitively to their child’s needs and emotions and soothe their child when she is upset. When young children’s needs are met by others, they begin to learn how to soothe and calm themselves when they become overwhelmed with emotion. Children who can manage their emotions are better able to concentrate on exploring, discovering, and learning new skills.1
  • Invite parents to share their views and expectations on how their children should express and manage their emotions and react to the emotions of others. For example, some families and cultures encourage children to be outgoing and expressive; others encourage children to be more reserved.

1Early Head Start National Resource Center (EHS NRC), OpenDoors Home Visitor’s Handbook (Washington, DC: HHS, ACF, OHS, EHS NRC, 2014), Chapter 10.5, Social and Emotional Development, How To.

Topic:School Readiness

Resource Type: Article

Last Updated: June 5, 2018