Expanding your young child’s emotional vocabulary

Help your child build an expansive emotional vocabulary by trying out some of these feeling words.

There are so many emotions human beings experience throughout their lives. It’s so important to teach and empower children to use words to express their emotions, but we often find ourselves repeating the same few words to young children.

By using diverse and specific words to describe feelings, you can increase your child’s emotional vocabulary and give them many words they can use to describe how they feel and express themselves.

Michigan State University Extension suggests trying out some of these feeling words with small children.

Instead of “happy,” you can say:

  • Affectionate
  • Agreeable
  • Cheerful
  • Excited
  • Friendly
  • Proud
  • Loving
  • Ecstatic
  • Fantastic
  • Delighted
  • Contented
  • Optimistic

Instead of “afraid,” you can say:

  • Uncomfortable
  • Tense
  • Anxious
  • Worried
  • Concerned
  • Timid
  • Uneasy
  • Alarmed
  • Scared
  • Frightened

Instead of “shy”, you can say:

  • Thoughtful
  • Pensive
  • Worried
  • Overwhelmed
  • Fearful
  • Peaceful
  • Quiet
  • Timid
  • Nervous
  • Calm

Instead of “angry,” you can say:

  • Embarrassed
  • Disappointed
  • Jealous
  • Impatient
  • Frustrated
  • Tense
  • Overwhelmed
  • Annoyed
  • Guilty

Instead of “sad,” you can say:

  • Sensitive
  • Uncomfortable
  • Confused
  • Miserable
  • Down
  • Glum
  • Unhappy
  • Devastated
  • Hurt
  • Powerless

Other good words to describe how children are feeling or what they are experiencing:

  • Focused
  • Bored
  • Weird
  • Sassy
  • Amused
  • Courageous
  • Eager
  • Energetic
  • Fulfilled
  • Hopeful
  • Inquisitive

Learn more about teaching children to identify and express their emotions and build their emotional vocabulary.

For more articles on child development, academic success, parenting and life skill development, please visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

To learn about the positive impact children and families are experience due to MSU Extension programs, read our 2015 Impact Report: Preparing young children to success and Preparing the future generation for success.” Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways Michigan 4-H and MSU Extension positively impacted individuals and communities in 2015, can be downloaded from the Michigan 4-H website.

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