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Regulating Emotion

The Astute Observer: What Skills do Preschool Teachers Teach – Regulating Emotion


Preschool education is a critical phase in a child’s development, where they embark upon their first formal learning journey. Preschoolers are eager to explore the world around them, but they also face numerous emotional challenges as they learn to navigate their feelings. In this article, we will delve into the valuable role of preschool teachers as astute observers, focusing on the essential skill of regulating emotion. By nurturing emotional intelligence and teaching strategies to manage emotions effectively, preschool teachers play a vital role in supporting the overall well-being and future success of their students.


Emotions are an integral part of the human experience, and preschoolers are no exception. As these young learners interact with their environment and peers, they encounter various emotional situations that can be both exhilarating and overwhelming. It is during these formative years that they begin to develop the skills necessary to regulate their emotions, a crucial aspect of their social and emotional growth.

Preschool teachers, as the astute observers of their students’ emotional states, are instrumental in guiding them towards emotional self-regulation. By employing a variety of strategies and activities, these dedicated educators help preschoolers understand, manage, and express their emotions in healthy and appropriate ways.

Observation 1: Recognizing Emotions

One of the fundamental skills preschool teachers teach their students is the ability to recognize emotions, both in themselves and in others. By creating a nurturing and supportive classroom environment, teachers encourage preschoolers to express their feelings openly. They engage in activities that promote emotional vocabulary, such as discussions, storytelling, and art. Through these activities, children develop a vocabulary to describe their emotions, enabling them to better communicate their inner experiences.

Teachers also observe their students closely, paying attention to non-verbal cues, facial expressions, and body language. By being attentive to these subtle signals, teachers can identify when a child might be experiencing a range of emotions, such as happiness, frustration, sadness, or anger. Recognizing and validating these emotions helps preschoolers feel understood and nurtured, building their emotional resilience.

Observation 2: Creating a Safe and Supportive Environment

Preschool teachers understand the importance of creating a safe and supportive environment that encourages emotional exploration and expression. In such an environment, children feel secure to experience and share their emotions without fear of judgment or reprimand.

To foster emotional safety, teachers establish consistent routines and clear expectations. They encourage positive social interactions, teaching preschoolers to listen, respect, and empathize with their peers. By modeling healthy emotional responses, teachers show their students how to manage challenging situations effectively.

Moreover, teachers use various tools and resources to support emotional regulation. Calming corners, for example, provide a designated space for preschoolers to engage in self-soothing activities like deep breathing or quiet reading when they feel overwhelmed. These designated areas also serve as visual reminders that emotions are valid and that it is acceptable to seek comfort when needed.

Observation 3: Teaching Coping Strategies

Preschool teachers play a significant role in equipping their students with effective coping strategies to regulate their emotions. By teaching these strategies, teachers empower preschoolers to navigate difficult emotions and situations more independently.

Breathing exercises, mindfulness activities, and guided imagery are some techniques that teachers utilize to help preschoolers calm themselves during times of distress. Through practice, children learn to center their focus, manage their breathing, and gain a sense of control over their emotions.

Additionally, teachers guide preschoolers in developing problem-solving skills. By engaging in discussions and activities that encourage critical thinking, teachers help children identify possible solutions to emotional challenges. This process not only strengthens their emotional intelligence but also enhances their overall cognitive abilities.

Observation 4: Encouraging Emotional Expression

Preschool teachers encourage their students to express their emotions in healthy and constructive ways. They create opportunities for preschoolers to engage in activities that promote emotional expression, such as dramatic play, art, and music.

Dramatic play, for instance, enables children to explore various roles and situations, providing a safe platform to experiment with different emotional responses. Art activities allow preschoolers to express themselves visually, translating their feelings into colors, shapes, and textures. Music, with its rhythmic and melodic elements, evokes emotions and encourages children to express themselves through movement and sound.

Through these activities, teachers not only validate the preschoolers’ emotions but also help them understand that all feelings are natural and should be acknowledged. By allowing emotional expression, teachers foster an inclusive environment where preschoolers feel accepted and valued.

Observation 5: Building Emotional Resilience

Lastly, preschool teachers play a crucial role in fostering emotional resilience in their students. By promoting emotional self-regulation, teachers equip preschoolers with the necessary skills to face challenges and setbacks confidently.

Through continuous observation and guidance, teachers help children recognize that emotions, even difficult ones, are temporary and manageable. By supporting them in problem-solving and providing reassurance, teachers instill a sense of confidence and resilience within preschoolers, enabling them to bounce back from emotional experiences.

Furthermore, teachers emphasize the importance of empathy and perspective-taking, encouraging preschoolers to understand and respect the emotions of others. By nurturing empathy, teachers help children develop strong interpersonal skills, fostering harmonious relationships both within and outside the classroom.

Observation 6: Promoting Social-Emotional Skills

Preschool teachers understand the interconnectedness of social and emotional development in young children. They recognize that regulating emotions is closely linked to developing social skills and building positive relationships. Therefore, they actively teach and promote social-emotional skills among their preschoolers.

Teachers facilitate activities that encourage collaboration, teamwork, and conflict resolution. These activities provide opportunities for preschoolers to practice emotional regulation while interacting with their peers. Through guided discussions and role-playing, teachers help children understand the impact of their emotions on others and develop empathy.

Teachers also implement structured social-emotional learning programs that incorporate age-appropriate lessons and activities. These programs cover topics such as self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. By integrating these lessons into their daily curriculum, teachers provide a comprehensive framework for preschoolers to develop strong social-emotional competencies.

Observation 7: Parental Collaboration

Preschool teachers recognize the importance of collaborating with parents or caregivers to support the emotional development of their students. They understand that children’s emotional regulation skills are influenced by their home environment and the relationships they have with their families.

Teachers maintain open lines of communication with parents, regularly sharing observations and insights regarding their child’s emotional well-being. This collaboration allows parents to gain a deeper understanding of their child’s emotional development and provides an opportunity to reinforce emotional regulation strategies at home.

Teachers also provide resources and guidance to parents, equipping them with tools to support their child’s emotional growth. They may recommend books, articles, or workshops that focus on fostering emotional intelligence in young children. By establishing a strong partnership with parents, teachers create a united support system that nurtures preschoolers’ emotional regulation skills holistically.

Observation 8: Incorporating Play-Based Learning

Play is a powerful tool in promoting emotional regulation among preschoolers. Preschool teachers understand the significance of play-based learning and incorporate it into their classrooms intentionally.

Through free play, children have the opportunity to explore and process their emotions in a natural and unstructured setting. Teachers create play areas and provide materials that encourage imaginative and symbolic play, allowing preschoolers to express and work through their emotions in a safe and creative manner.

Teachers also facilitate guided play activities where they actively participate and provide scaffolding for emotional regulation. These activities may involve storytelling, puppetry, or guided pretend play scenarios that allow children to engage with emotions and practice regulating them within a structured context.

By incorporating play into their teaching strategies, preschool teachers create an environment that promotes emotional exploration, experimentation, and growth.

Observation 9: Emotion Coaching

Preschool teachers employ a technique known as emotion coaching to support the emotional development of their students. Emotion coaching involves recognizing and validating children’s emotions, and then guiding them through the experience to promote emotional understanding and regulation.

When a preschooler expresses an emotion, such as frustration or sadness, the teacher acknowledges and labels the emotion, helping the child identify and understand what they are feeling. By validating their emotions, teachers demonstrate empathy and create a safe space for preschoolers to express themselves.

Next, teachers engage in dialogue with the child, asking open-ended questions and encouraging them to talk about their emotions. This helps preschoolers develop their emotional vocabulary and enhances their ability to articulate their feelings.

Teachers then provide guidance and support in managing and regulating emotions. They may suggest coping strategies or problem-solving techniques that are appropriate for the situation. Through this process, preschoolers learn that emotions are normal and can be managed effectively, leading to increased emotional resilience.

Observation 10: Modelling Healthy Emotional Regulation

Preschool teachers understand the power of modelling healthy emotional regulation for their students. They are aware that children often learn by observing and imitating the behavior of adults around them.

Teachers strive to demonstrate positive emotional regulation skills in their interactions with students. They remain calm and composed in challenging situations, showing preschoolers that it is possible to regulate emotions even in difficult circumstances. By modeling effective problem-solving and conflict resolution, teachers provide examples for preschoolers to learn from and emulate.

Moreover, teachers openly express their own emotions in a constructive manner. They share their feelings and talk about how they manage them, demonstrating that it is natural and healthy to experience a range of emotions. This openness helps preschoolers feel comfortable sharing their own emotions and seeking support when needed.

Observation 11: Individualized Support

Preschool teachers recognize that each child is unique and may require individualized support in their emotional development. They carefully observe and assess the needs of each preschooler, tailoring their approach to suit their specific requirements.

By building strong relationships with their students, teachers gain insight into their individual strengths, challenges, and triggers. This allows them to provide targeted support and interventions to help preschoolers regulate their emotions effectively.

Teachers may collaborate with other professionals, such as school counselors or therapists, to develop personalized strategies and interventions for preschoolers who require additional support. They work closely with parents to ensure consistency and provide a unified approach in supporting the child’s emotional well-being.

Observation 12: Creating a Culture of Emotional Support

Preschool teachers understand the importance of creating a culture of emotional support within the classroom. They foster an environment where preschoolers feel comfortable expressing their emotions and seeking assistance when needed.

Teachers establish clear expectations and rules regarding emotional expression, emphasizing the importance of respect and empathy towards others’ feelings. They promote a non-judgmental atmosphere where children feel safe sharing their emotions without fear of ridicule or punishment.

In addition, teachers facilitate class discussions and activities that promote empathy and emotional understanding. They encourage preschoolers to listen actively to their peers, to consider different perspectives, and to offer support and encouragement when others are experiencing challenging emotions. Through these experiences, children develop a sense of community and learn the value of supporting one another’s emotional well-being.

Observation 13: Reflective Practice and Professional Development

Preschool teachers engage in reflective practice and continuous professional development to enhance their skills in teaching emotional regulation. They understand the importance of self-reflection and seek opportunities to improve their instructional strategies.

Teachers may participate in workshops, conferences, or professional development courses that focus on social-emotional learning and the latest research in the field. They stay updated with current theories, methodologies, and best practices related to emotional regulation.

By engaging in reflective practice, teachers critically analyze their teaching methods, assess their effectiveness, and make adjustments as needed. They collaborate with colleagues to share insights, exchange ideas, and learn from each other’s experiences. This commitment to growth and development allows teachers to refine their approaches and provide even better support to their preschoolers.

Observation 14: Long-Term Impact

The skills and strategies preschool teachers teach preschoolers regarding emotional regulation have a lasting impact on their lives. The ability to regulate emotions effectively is not only essential for their current well-being but also sets the foundation for their future success.

Preschoolers who develop strong emotional regulation skills are more likely to have better mental health outcomes, improved social interactions, and higher academic achievement. They are better equipped to handle stress, adapt to change, and navigate challenges as they progress through their educational journey.

Furthermore, the skills learned during the preschool years serve as building blocks for lifelong emotional intelligence. These individuals are more likely to have healthier relationships, higher self-esteem, and better coping mechanisms in adulthood.

The astute observation and guidance provided by preschool teachers contribute significantly to the emotional development and overall well-being of their students. Their dedication and expertise shape not only the present but also the future of the preschoolers they serve.