Emotions & Self-Awareness Helping Your Four-Year-Old Understand and Manage Emotions

Emotional self-awareness involves identifying and understanding one's emotions ― including "big feelings" that can sometimes overwhelm us. As Fred Rogers reminds us: "When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary." Four-year-olds can use simple emotion words — such as "happy," "sad," "excited" and "scared" ― to describe how they are feeling either during or after an emotional reaction. They can also begin to talk about how specific events cause them to feel happy, sad, excited and scared. 

Help your child learn to express feelings:

Read Aloud

Picture books are powerful tools for helping kids identify what feelings can look like ― and can help them begin to connect their feelings to the feelings of others. While reading, stop when an emotional event occurs and talk about how a character is feeling.

Pantomime

Pantomiming favorite activities or emotions in a charades-like game can be a fun way to "talk" without speaking.

Do This Activity

Identify Cause and Effect

Build emotional self-awareness by helping children identify actions and experiences that trigger feelings. For example, losing a favorite toy might make someone feel sad, helping a younger sibling might make them feel happy, reading books with Dad might make them feel peaceful and going on a special outing with Grandma might make them feel excited.

Puppet Play

Using puppets to explore and express emotions can help your child learn to identify and develop appropriate responses when frustrated, sad or mad.

Do This Activity

Help Your Child Manage Emotions with Daniel Tiger

Through imagination, creativity and music, Daniel and his friends learn how to manage big and overwhelming feelings using strategies grounded in the teachings of Mister Rogers.

Find Activities

Activity Finder: Learn With Your Four-Year-Old

Explore our Age-by-Age Guide: