5 Everyday Tips for Building Your Kids’ Emotional Intelligence

Happy Columbus Day! It’s been over 500 years now since Christopher Columbus landed on American shores, “discovering” the New World and laying the groundwork for another October school holiday. Whichever side of the story you’re celebrating today, we wish you lots of happy family playtime!

In the spirit of discovery, this week’s blog posts will focus on exploring emotions. We’ll look at some crafty and cool ways to open new lines of communication between parent and child, and talk about play-based fun that develops emotional awareness. Why is this important? By practicing the art of understanding and communicating feelings, kids become more adept at moderating those feelings—in other words, learning to stay calm, bounce back, and talk through problems in a productive way. And who wouldn’t cross an ocean for that?

Ready to get started? Keep these top tips in mind as you play together this week:

Don’t wait for “sad” (or “silly” or “scared”) to happen: Use the low-stress environment of playtime to talk about what different emotions look and feel like. To keep things light, you can use puppets or doll families to act out and identify situations that may cause stress in real life.

This pad is packed with blank faces for your child to fill! Child therapists tell us they love using this activity to help kids express themselves.

Show feelings: Art-starters like this Create-a-Face drawing pad let kids express their feelings creatively—in this case, by completing each empty face. Help your child explore what emotions look like by requesting portraits of extremes: Can you draw the happiest kid in the world? (You can use the pictures to inspire a game of charades, too!)

Talk solutions: Brainstorm ways to calm emotions when they get out of hand. Try out different ideas (like deep breaths, counting to 10, or finding a quiet place to cool down), and let your child discover the ones that work best.

Listen up: In or out of playtime, listen to your kids when they talk about feelings, especially when they use the vocabulary you’ve practiced with them. Your attention will reinforce the importance of calm(er), clear communication.

Be human: Whether it’s honking at the four-way stop or lapsing into PG-13 when you stub your toe, we all occasionally lose our composure or act in irrational ways. Use it: When you’re calm again, model what it looks like to reflect on emotions: Wow, I felt really mad when those cars wouldn’t go. I guess I need to try to be more patient.

As always, enjoy each other’s company and the discovery of new ideas . . . and have fun!

Stay tuned this week for lots more creative play ideas and more at blog.MelissaAndDoug.com, and post a comment to let us know how your family explores kids’ feelings and emotions.


  1. Grietjie Thorne says:

    Hi there, I really enjoyed your posts last week, but this one tops them all. I especially like the ‘Talk solutions’ idea and will be using that with my children tomorrow. I have a sensitive 3 year old who really struggles with managing his emotions and this would be a great tool to use in, as you say, “the low-stress environment of playtime.” Looking forward to hearing what he suggests for managing those tears!!

  2. Very important thing to mention here


  1. […] we highlighted 5 easy, everyday tips, like using the low-stress environment of playtime to talk about what different emotions look and […]

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