How would you define this feeling?

Joy, sadness, fear, anger, affection… Emotions and feelings are so strong and impactful, and at the same time, they are invisible, impossible to touch! How can we learn to translate them into words?

As children, we live and feel intensely. In a single day, various sensations and feelings arise from a wide range of situations: from the joy of learning something new to the frustration of losing in a ball game.

In order for children to be able to recognize, name, and acquire tools to cope with something as abstract as emotions and feelings, we conduct a highly sensitive and attentive work with them, starting in Early Childhood Education.

“Mobilizing children in order for them to develop awareness of what they are feeling is to contribute to the construction of their subjectivity and identity, enabling them to gain a deeper understanding of themselves. It is work that is always mediated by an adult. As the feelings are being named by the teachers, the children begin to recognize which feelings are governing the interactions they have with themselves, with other children, with the materials and with the environment. As time goes by, they acquire the ability to name what they are feeling” – says Camila Maia, coordinator of Early Childhood Education at be.Living.

Camila explains that this work is conducted with all the Early Childhood Education groups, with different proposals suited to each age group. “For younger children, the role of the adult, who will name these feelings, is extremely important. When there is a moment of conflict, for example, when a child hits or pushes, in other words, when they are using their body to communicate something, the teachers ask if they might be angry or sad, and for what reasons, always raising hypotheses for the purpose of helping the child to understand what they are really feeling. This work happens all the time, on a daily basis: in the mediation of interactions, in conflicts and negotiations, in free play and also in moments and projects dedicated specifically to working on this issue.

One tool used to introduce this subject to the little ones is the Mood Tracker. In a circle, the teachers present the children with references to feelings through happy, sad and angry faces, among others. When teachers ask “How are you feeling today?”, the children can choose one of the faces to translate their emotions.

Literature is also a powerful language for learning about something as abstract as emotions. Through stories, it is possible to connect with different situations and points of view, and perceive how each character deals with feelings similar to those the children are experiencing. Books like “The color monster”, “I am peace” and “In my heart”, provide reflections that relate the content of the book to the children’s own experiences. This helps them focus on others, fostering empathy and dialogue.

The Blue class, made up of the older children, conducted a special project on kindness. Taking inspiration from Mariângela Bueno’s book “Anita Bocadura”, they organized a kindness store. This endeavor aimed to not only deepen the reflection proposed by the reading, but also share their learning with other children in the school. The group collaborated to create a mobile adorned with tokens of kindness. These mementos served as both room decorations and reminders for the entire school community to embrace kind acts in their daily lives. In the store, children from different classes eagerly perused through emojis, heartfelt words, and acts of kindness, offering their own gestures of kindness in exchange. This project created memorable moments of affection for everyone at the school.

“Working on feelings is also very important for building more empathetic action. Over the years, as children are able to recognize, identify and name their feelings for themselves, they are also able to look at others with greater respect. The teachers are fostering this perspective. At first it’s as if we’re saying: ‘look at what you’re feeling’. Later on, we can say: ‘look at what your action caused’ or ‘what feeling your action generated in another person’. So the children begin to understand that if they hit their friend, the friend gets angry, it hurts their body, they can get frustrated and no longer want to play. Just like in a situation where there’s a dispute over material, for example, when they lend a toy to another child, they realize that their friend is happy to play together or to play with that toy.”

The coordinator says that when children know and name their feelings, they become more aware of who they are and how they place themselves in the world. “When they become aware of what they are feeling, they become able to live in the present moment, to look at the other person – within what is possible for their age group – with a more empathetic perspective, respecting and valuing what the other person is feeling too. More broadly, this type of work contributes to building good social relations and mutual respect.”

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