Children learning and using the language of emotion

‘I have no words.’

‘I don’t know what to say.’

‘Words can’t describe how I feel.’


If you have thought or said, any of these statements before … you are not alone. Understanding and then expressing how we feel can be tricky and definitely, takes practice.

Providing space and grabbing opportunities to learn, and use, the language of emotion has been a focus for the Tasmanian Aboriginal Children’s Centre during their involvement with KidsMatter Early Childhood.

As a result, there is an increased use of the language of emotions by staff and children. The leadership team believes this illustrates changes in practice and ‘climate’ at the service.

The community is connecting, and relationships are strengthening through language use. Children are leading and engaging in rich dialogue where emotions are central.

Reconciling loss together

The children had been carefully observing a nearby swan’s nest. They had watched and talked about the shared parenting of the mother and father swans and were eagerly anticipating the hatching of the eggs.

Unfortunately, a downpour of rain caused river levels to rise and washed the nest and eggs away. All efforts to save at least some of the eggs failed.

Documenting and discussing this event helped the children to deal with their feelings of sadness. The language of emotions that had increasingly become part of everyday practice also helped them. Staff used this experience to focus on feelings, belonging, caring and sharing.

Expressing empathy

Conversations between educators and children reflect capacity and openness to talk about feelings and express empathy.

When the assistant director’s father died, one of the children said to her, “You can share my Dad” and when a duckling died, another child said, “Like your Dad.”

Growing and valuing relationships

The assistant director and a child with particularly challenging behaviours had been observing some ducklings following their mother. As they talked about this, he said to her,

“If I was I duck I would follow you.”

This short statement demonstrates connection, care, and warmth in a relationship that has grown between an educator and a child. It also demonstrates the significance of relationships, between children and educators, for children’s sense of belonging, learning and wellbeing.

Children can learn about strong relationships and develop their skills for maintaining them with educators who are committed to inviting and noticing opportunities to use the language of emotion.

If you have a language of emotion moment, share with the community below.  

KidsMatter Early Childhood

KidsMatter is a mental health and wellbeing initiative for children. KidsMatter Early Childhood works with early childhood education and care services to support the mental health and wellbeing of young children, their families and early childhood educators using a promotion, prevention and early intervention framework. Visit the website by clicking here.

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