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Te kōrero mō ngā kare ā-roto

Talking about feelings

Talking about feelings with children and supporting them to name and describe feelings helps them to understand, express, and regulate their emotions.

Kaiako can:

  • include talking about feelings in everyday conversations, so that it’s normal for adults and children to name and discuss emotions
  • learn the words for different feelings in children’s home languages and the cultural meanings and norms associated with them
  • help children expand their vocabulary through modelling the use of language to name, describe, and explain feelings by reading poems and stories that provide opportunities to talk about them
  • consider different visual prompts and environmental supports that help children to express their feelings. Gestures, facial expressions, pictures, and photographs provide additional ways for children to express how they feel alongside oral language.

This information is from page 38 of He Māpuna te Tamaiti: Supporting social and emotional competence in early learning. More information and a PDF of the document are found on the He māpuna te tamaiti page.

A kaiako comforts a child on their knee

Story of practice: The concept of whakamā

Two children playing.

Articulating how we feel can be complex. In a bustling early learning service, the manager noticed that a normally vibrant child became overwhelmed during group times. She raised this at a staff hui. “Feelings are not alway explosive,” the manager explained, “But that doesn’t mean they are any less powerful.”

Based on a book about feelings in Māori and English, a whole-team approach was designed. Kaiako encouraged tamariki to express a wide range of emotional responses to the situations they experienced. Whānau and kaiako concluded that understanding the concept of whakamā – defined here as shyness or feeling shy – would be helpful for this child. This word was intentionally introduced, “It’s okay to feel whakamā. Sometimes we all feel uncomfortable and whakamā”.

This proved to be a powerful strategy and whānau, who sometimes struggled to find out why their kōtiro clammed up, reported that she could now explain when she felt whakamā.


Further strategies

For further strategies see: