Experiencing, knowing and naming feelings

Experiencing, knowing and naming feelings

Experiencing feelings

  • Feelings are a mix of physical sensations, thoughts and subjective experience, and
  • behaviour and actions.
  • Babies and young children become increasingly aware of their own feelings.
  • Young babies show the basic human emotions of happiness, sadness, anger, distress and surprise, older babies begin to show fear, shyness and disgust.
  • As they become more aware of themselves and others, younger children gradually begin to experience more complex feelings such as embarrassment, jealousy, pride, shame and guilt.
  • Young children show interest in the feelings that others experience and begin to realise that they differ from their own.

Knowing and naming feelings

  • It takes time for babies and children to get used to how feelings work and to know the difference between different emotions.
  • Young babies are very reliant on caregivers to understand how they feel, to soothe and calm them as well as offer interest and excitement.
  • Consistent familiar care and experiences make it easier for babies and children to connect how they feel with what they experience and how they act.
  • Practitioners help children to name, interpret and explain feelings as well as to make connections between feelings and their causes. Young children still find conflicting emotions difficult to grasp and appreciate.

Managing feelings

  • Everyone likes to feel content and settled, and likes to prevent and avoid feeling uncomfortable or distressed.
  • Young babies initially react spontaneously and immediately to how they feel and gradually find ways to manage and alter how they feel.
  • As they grow older, babies and toddlers may begin to use familiar objects, e.g. cuddly toys, to help to comfort and reassure themselves.
  • Babies and young children distract and entertain themselves with toys and play to fee good and to avoid and prevent discomfort.
  • Growing self-awareness and language skills make it easier for younger children to do things for themselves about how they feel.
  • They also become better at explaining how they feel and asking for help, making it easier for them to manage their increasingly complex feelings in socially appropriate ways.
  • Practitioners can influence the ways that children manage their feelings by modelling appropriate behaviour and using encouragement and limit setting.