Play is an incredibly important part of a child’s development, including their emotional development.
Through play children are given the opportunity to experience and learn how to regulate a range of emotions, happiness, sadness, frustration and anger. Play also provides an opportunity for them to develop their resiliency in trying again if faced with perceived failures, and in connecting with their peers to forming meaningful relationships.
At around 3 to 4 years of age, a preschooler will use words to describe their emotions such as sad, happy, angry and excited. They will typically be able to understand how others are feeling too. During this time you will also be able to see the early stages of sharing and affection towards others, just lower your expectations of these behaviours all the time – some toys are just too precious to share!
Through play, children are given opportunities to explore and understand their feelings. Giving a child the opportunity to lead the play activity may assist a child to express their emotions, and this can encouraged through the following play and interactions:
Embrace mess - the more mess the better
Imagination and creativity - puppets, old clothes or toys can be used to act out feelings or life scenarios
Play outside to help children let out their emotions
Encourage play with children of all ages and abilities
Read stories with children where others are experiencing similar situations and emotions. This can help a child understand their feelings, nerves about starting school or initiating play with peers
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