Skip to content
teach kids emotions and social development

Toys and Activities to Teach Kids Social and Emotional Development

Whether you're stuck inside due to bad weather or a bout of the snuffles, creative indoor activities can be lifesavers for parents. But these creative pursuits aren't just a great way to while away hours spend inside. They also offer the perfect opportunity to teach children about emotions. 

Most of us consider interactions with others to be a vital component of social and emotional development in early childhood. But in reality, children are always learning. This means that even solo activities can serve to encourage emotional development in early childhood. 

From empathy in role-playing to painting feelings, let's take a look at some of the best activities for teaching emotions to toddlers and kids.

Drawing and Painting

Children start to see and understand the visual world long before they have the words to express themselves. As such, giving your children free rein to create whatever they want with a mega paint set and drawing pad can be a liberating experience. 

Offering this kind of freedom of expression is vital for emotional development in children. Creating art encourages them to look inwards for inspiration. This then helps them to assess how they feel before projecting these feelings out into the world.

Once children go on to reach certain stages of social development, this will become evident in the way they depict people and facial expressions in their artwork. Likewise, they will soon start to incorporate fantasy elements like unicorns and fairies. This shows their developing imagination, which is a prerequisite for empathy

Remember to ask open questions rather than make guesses when your child presents you with their latest masterpiece. But, probe them about how their creations feel or what's happening too. This can help them focus on emotional language and social scenarios. In turn, this allows them to access greater emotional development as they learn how to explain the scenes they've created. 

mom teaching about emotions social development

Writing Down Thoughts 

Keeping a journal is one of the best ways for us adults to manage stress and anxiety. As such, it makes sense that the same is true for children. Kids may not have to worry about work deadlines, money, and other adult problems. But, they do have to process a lot of confusing emotions. And often, they're expected to do so long before they've reached the necessary level of emotional intelligence.  

Whether your child is into mermaids or mad about unicorns, a stationery set is always a welcome present. But pretty notebooks and colourful pens also help fuel a natural desire to write down thoughts, experiences, and emotions. As such, stationery gifts are a great way to encourage emotional development in early childhood. 

For older kids, a stylish geometric stationery set or a lockable secret diary might be more their style. Regardless of the design, having a place to express their thoughts kickstarts the process of organising and articulating their feelings from a young age. 

kids writing about emotions


Toys, fancy dress items, and other fun accessories are very useful when teaching emotions to toddlers. For example, you can use plush toys and dolls to show different emotions to your children. What's more, children are often better able to express their inner thoughts and feelings when role-playing. And this is especially true with realistic external aids like animals and figurines. 

Role-playing with more complex toys like this Sunset Drive set can help ignite your child's imagination and creativity. Such toys can also offer opportunities for modelling social situations, interactions, and responses.

In contrast, the freedom of classic toys like building blocks allows for no end of scenarios and outcomes. A useful approach is to ask your child about what they're trying to build beforehand. Verbalising their expectations helps support social development in children. And, the act of invention through play offers children an invaluable insight into their limitations and how to handle them.

kids roleplay social development

Arts and Crafts

Like painting and drawing, experimenting with arts and crafts allows children the freedom to express themselves through visual creation. But, they won't have to limit themselves to 2D images when presented with a craft set full of endless possibilities. Having more choice can help children feel more in control. In turn, this helps guide their social development and emotional regulation strategies. 

Although, if you're looking for ways to teach children about emotions, craft activities are ideal. How about making finger puppets for role-playing? Or your kids could create emoji faces to help you elicit emotional words. 

Here, it's a good idea to take the lead with your own creative contribution. For example, you could make an emoji face out of card, lolly sticks, and pipe cleaners. Or indeed, anything else you can find in this craft chest! Your example will serve as an inspiration for your children's designs. But, you can also use it to ask your kids questions, prompt social interactions, and model responses.

kids arts crafts teach emotions


Providing children with a wide range of colours and their choice of themed colouring book allows children some scope for creativity and visualisation. This then encourages empathy and autonomy through imagination and freedom of expression. 

But, having to colour within the lines makes this a more controlled and structured form of creativity. This teaches children impulse control, self-regulation, and improved social awareness. 

For older children, colouring-in can be very calming. It also helps them stay present and centred for greater emotional clarity. And, activities like colouring a backpack appeal to their desire for self-expression as a form of social development.

kids colouring social development

Try These Activities to Teach Children About Emotions

Creative activities offer no end of ways to teach children about emotions in the comfort and safety of their own home. And, since they make use of the materials every child should have, these activities can evolve in a natural and spontaneous way. 

For more inspiring advice on helping your children learn through play, feel free to get in touch!

Previous article Having A Staycation? Here's 10 Fun Activities & Ideas For This Summer
Next article 5 Fantastic Toy Gift Ideas for 7-year-old Girls in 2021