by Alix Tonsgard

While the epic meltdowns experienced in the early years are difficult for us grown-ups, it is important to remember that the emotions that stimulate this response are extremely difficult for our little ones, too. The first years of life are full of firsts and with that, every time a young child has an experience it teaches them something. These early lessons and first experiences with the world include first experiences with emotions, and as we know, emotions can be extremely powerful.  

The ability to regulate emotions develops as a child’s brain develops. This means that in the first few years they are not yet equipped with the tools to handle their feelings. Just as children need to be taught, or given the tools to master certain academic skills like addition and subtraction, they need the tools to process and handle their feelings.  

Here are some things to try:

Name Emotions

Whether your child is happy, sad, excited, or frustrated, name the emotion they are feeling. These are all new vocabulary words.  Helping them to learn how to identify their feelings is a powerful tool.


It does no good to make a child feel bad about their feelings even if the behavioral response they have is not…ideal. They need to know that we all have feelings. Tell them how you are feeling! “I get mad too sometimes….” “It makes me really happy when…”

Develop Strategies

Instead of focusing on what they should not do when they are upset, give them something they can do. “I see that you are mad but you cannot push your brother but you can squeeze this ball.”

To learn more, read the full blog at You can also use the hashtag #PlayIQwithDCM on DCM’s social media pages to ask me a question. I would love to hear from you!

Alix Tonsgard is an early learning specialist at the DuPage Children’s Museum.