Effective Practice Guides

Emotional Functioning: Know

Goals for Infants and Toddlers

  • IT-SE 6. Child learns to express a range of emotions.
  • IT-SE 7. Child recognizes and interprets emotions of others with the support of familiar adults.
  • IT-SE 8. Child expresses care and concern towards others.
  • IT-SE 9. Child manages emotions with the support of familiar adults.

Teaching Practices


Tell children what is going to happen in advance to prepare them for changes and transitions.
It’s clean-up time and the toddlers and teachers are putting things away so they can go outside. Suddenly, the light in the room gets dark and Ms. Hansen says, “Oh my, it looks like the thunderstorm is starting early.” She tells the children, “It’s not safe to play outdoors during a thunderstorm. We will have to do something indoors to get our wiggles out.” Ms. Hansen tells the children to get their boots and leads them to the gross motor room. Once there, they sing songs (e.g., Rain, Rain, Go Away), put on their boots, and march around the room.

Accept and name children’s strong feelings while offering ways to manage them.
During a home visit, 3-month-old Dion is crying and seems frustrated. Ms. Leone, his mother, says to the baby, “I think that is your frustrated cry. You woke up a lot last night and now you are having a hard time falling asleep.” She checks to make sure Dion’s diaper is dry and then places him in a baby sling so she can keep him close until he feels better and perhaps fall asleep. Home visitor, Ms. Ryan says, “That’s a wonderful way to soothe Dion. He seems to relax when you hold him close to you. Naming his feelings also helps, even though he doesn’t quite understand what you mean yet. But one day, he will.”


Design the environment to maximize positive behaviors and minimize behaviors that cause problems.
Ms. Emily and Mr. Sean scan the room for potential problems every morning before the children arrive. They know how quickly infants and toddlers gain new skills so they want to be sure the setting is always safe and engaging. Ms. Emily says, “Several children are pulling themselves up on the furniture. I’ll make sure the shelves are still stable.” Mr. Sean responds, “I’ll restock the crayon bin. Some children enjoy scribbling and we want to have plenty of crayons on hand.”

Offer materials that encourage children to manage, express, and discuss their feelings and those of others.
Ms. Craig’s family child care program has a relaxation area where older toddlers can squeeze soft balls, be alone for a while, or listen to music of their choice using headphones. The library area includes board books featuring pictures of babies and toddlers displaying different emotions. She and the children look at each picture and talk about what the child might be feeling.


Step in to help children learn how to handle disagreements.
Ms. Joa sees 18-month-old Tamra grab a foam block from Amare, 16 months, who responds by pulling Tamra’s hair. Tamra screams and cries. Amare looks surprised. Ms. Joa joins the children and says, “Tamra, Amare wants to play with the block. Here is another block you can use.” Still crying, Tamra takes the block and hugs it. Ms. Joa continues, “Amare, you got angry when Tamra took your block. But it’s not okay to hurt her. It’s okay to say, ‘No Tamra.’ Let’s practice saying it together.”

Change an activity when a child seems tired, overly excited, or distressed.
Ms. Winstead and her daughter Luci, 10 months, are sitting in a comfy chair looking at a book together. About halfway through, Luci starts to squirm and pull on one ear. Ms. Kay, their home visitor, waits for a moment to see what Ms. Winstead might do or say. When Ms. Winstead continues trying to read the book, Ms. Kay comments, “I’ve noticed that Luci often pulls on her ear when she is tired. Do you think she might be ready for an early nap?”

Goals for Preschoolers

  • P-SE 6. Child expresses a broad range of emotions and recognizes these emotions in self and others.
  • P-SE 7. Child expresses care and concern toward others.
  • P-SE 8. Child manages emotions with increasing independence.

Teaching Practices


Invite children to express their feelings and to consider what others might be feeling.
Maggie’s father, Mr. Corcoran, is visiting Ms. Lester’s family child care home this morning. Mr. Corcoran helps Maggie, who just turned 4, and her friends bake banana muffins for a snack. Maggie will also take one home for her mom, whose birthday is today. They talk about the ingredients, how to measure them, and how long the muffins will take to bake. When the muffins are done, Ms. Lester asks Maggie, “When you see and smell these beautiful muffins, how do you feel? How do you think your mom will feel when she sees what you and your friends made?”

Acknowledge and accept children’s feelings while helping them express those feelings in appropriate ways.
Kris, 3-and-a-half years, loves playing lotto; but when he doesn’t win, he loses his temper and tosses the pieces on the floor. During a home visit, Kris and his mom are playing a game. When it looks like Kris is going to lose, his mom turns to their home visitor, Ms. Wesley, and says, “Uh oh. I hope he doesn’t get upset.” Ms. Wesley responds, “It’s hard for preschoolers to get used to winning and losing. Let’s think of some ways to help him express his feelings about losing in more appropriate ways so he can have fun playing lotto and other games with you.”


Provide a variety of materials and activities that allow for creative  expression.
Ms. Perez brings out two hula hoops and asks Corey and Tameka, both 3 years old, “What can we do with these?” Tameka says, “Let’s decorate them.” Ms. Perez reaches in her basket and brings out a bag of yarn. “We could use this if you like.” Tameka grins and looks for her favorite color, blue. Soon Corey and Tameka have filled the hula hoops with a web of blue yarn.

Arrange the setting so children can save and protect projects they are still working on.
Several children are making a mural using the leaves and other natural objects they found in the woods today. Mr. Wong helps them make a sign to tell everyone that their mural is a work in progress. Raoul tells him what to write, “Dear friends, This is our beautiful work. Please leave it on the wall.”


Hold private discussions with individual children to help them understand and cope with emotions.
Family child care provider, Ms. Vega, knows that Javier, 3-and-a-half years old, has a hard time saying goodbye to his Papá when he leaves in the morning. She and Javier make a book, illustrated with photos, to remind Javier of what to say and do when he arrives at her home. They read the book often so Javier can practice coping with his sad feelings when his Papá leaves and sharing his happy feelings when his Papá returns.

Ask a child to help a peer who needs assistance.
Caitlin needs one more cardboard block to make her tower as big as she is. If she lets go, it will fall down. Preschool teacher, Mr. Terrence, asks, “Michael, can you please help Caitlin by handing her another block?” Michael gets a block for Caitlin. She puts the last block and the tower and says, “Thanks, Michael. Want to help me knock it down?”

Topic:School Readiness

Resource Type: Article

Last Updated: June 5, 2018