Emotional Vocabulary For Kids

It can be difficult for kids to express how they feel if they do not know the right vocabulary.

This can result in misbehaving behavior and stress as children do not know how to talk about their feelings. Describing an emotion can be difficult even for adults. It is not something that can happen naturally.

It is our job as parents and educators to help children in verbalizing their thoughts.

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The basic human emotions :

Emotions are response towards something that is heard, seen, smelled and touched.

The feelings are not necessarily good nor bad, it is a reaction to our emotions which will then create a positive or negative experience.

There are 2 main types of emotions : 

  1. Dr. Paul Ekman, a psychologist at the University of California, identifies six basic emotions based on facial expressions and physical movements. He calls these elements anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise.
  2. Dr. Robert Plutchick, adds an additional two states to his ‘Wheel of Emotions’ — trust and anticipation — for a total of eight basic emotions. He pairs these emotions together to get four sets of opposites – joy/sadness, surprise/anticipation, trust/disgust, and anger/fear.


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Why you should teach your child emotional vocabulary?

This can be part of their emotional intelligence. It is their ability to acknowledge someone else’s feelings and the development of empathy.

It is a communication skill that needs to be taught to children from a young age.

When children develop the emotional vocabulary they can express their feelings and have better relationships with other people. They perform better in school and have fewer behavioral problems.


How to build your child’s emotional vocabulary?

The best way to do this is through verbal communication. Here are some things you can try with your child :

  1. Point out the feelings your child is experiencing – “You look happy playing with the new toy.”
  2. Listen to them and help them reflect back – “I know you are angry at your brother, and I understand that, but….”
  3. Ask questions: “How are you feeling today?”, “Were you afraid of anything?”,  “Did anything upset you today?”
  4. Comment on the emotions of other things: “The dog seem to be having fun.”, “The cat must be afraid, he ran after seeing us.”
  5. Talk about TV characters: “How do you think Peter Rabbit feels now?”
  6. Encourage praises -“Wow you did so well in running today, I am so proud of you”
  7. Model this behavior -“That person crossed without seeing the road, I got so scared for a second.”
  8. Identify other people’s behavior – “Your sister is sad because she lost her favorite pencil today”.
  9. Use the feeling chart below

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List of emotional vocabulary for kids:

Happy words:

Content, lucky, smiling, sunny, joking, excited, friendly

Sad Words :

Unhappy, awful, miserable, gloomy, down, low

Excited Words :

Surprise, wonderful, unexpected, shock, amaze

Fear words

Scared, afraid, worry, nervous, uncomfortable

Angry words

irritate, frustration, rage, fury, bored, crabby, temper, displease


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