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Monday, September 30, 2019

7 Ways That Children Use Play to Express Their Emotions

Learning to handle big emotions is something that children will learn and relearn as they grow. Positive expression of emotions can help that learning process go a little more smoothly and using play as an opportunity to express emotion can be a good, non-threatening way for a child to open up and explore their feelings in a constructive way.

Messy play helps children explore their emotions. Messy play might not sound like the most emotionally in-tune option, but when dealing with strong feelings, especially feelings of anger and frustration, messy play allows children to convert some of those feelings into mess and releases some of their energy in a way that does not negatively impact them or others around them.

Role-play offers kids a safe way to express emotions. Emotions can be confusing, overwhelming, and scary. So much so that children may shy away from situations that trigger those emotions. This may be especially true for introverts and people-pleasers who have a difficult time standing up for themselves when faced with conflict. Role-playing allows children to experience emotions in a safe environment and allows that to practice their reactions to specific scenarios. That practice may serve them well in real life and help them to gain confidence and control over their own reactions.

Get outside and play in big spaces. It is just as simple as it sounds: Let children play outside and let them run in the open. Physical activity, especially running, is a great way for children to take to reflect and process emotions and scenarios. Teaching children to use exercise as an outlet from an early age may also encourage them to stay active and enjoy peak physical and mental health throughout their lives.

Use art as an emotional expression. Art, while not physical exercise, exercises different parts of our brain and allows us to create visual representations of our emotions. Actually seeing that emotion can help in the identification and processing of it.

Make music that mimics emotion. As with art, music can be created as a representation of emotion. Children can experience both strong and more subtle emotions through music and listening to music may be able to pick out different emotions and practice empathy for the emotions of others.

Read stories with strong emotions. Watching and listening to emotions experienced by others also allows children to build empathy. Stories can help children learn appropriate behaviors and make decisions regarding how they can express their own emotions.

Play with children of different ages. As with teaching children about cultural diversity, exposing them, first-hand, can be very beneficial to their learning and comprehension. Children playing with older peers may observe the reactions and coping skills around them and adopt what they see as they process their own emotions. Children playing with a wide age range of peers may also help to normalize emotions as they watch others experience and express difficult emotions in an age-appropriate way.

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Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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