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Raising Emotionally Intelligent Children

Tips for raising emotionally intelligent children.

Emotional intelligence is a critical live skill for the 21st century, but raising emotionally intelligent children can feel daunting. Here are some activities and resources to get you started.

Emotional intelligence is a critical live skill for the 21st century, but raising emotionally intelligent children can feel daunting. Here are some activities and resources to get you started.

How to Raise Emotionally Intelligent Children

Emotional intelligence is a talent like any other. It will come more naturally to some children than to others, but it can be taught. Here are some things I do to help my children develop their emotional intelligence.

Read Books

Both books about managing emotions and books about feeling emotions will help children develop emotional intelligence. The Monsters Inside and Little Monkey Calms Down are two of our favorite books about managing emotions. The Llama Llama picture book series and The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm are wonderful for exploring feeling intense emotions. The Beezus and Ramona series is also wonderful for exploring childhood emotions. For grown-up reading, I highly recommend Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence. Do you have a favorite book about emotions?

Explore Art and Music

Both art and music allow less verbal children to explore emotions without having to master words. Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is a fun piece of music to use to explore emotions. How do the different movements make you feel? Why? Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf and Saint-Saens’ The Carnival of the Animals are two more kid friendly picks (and those two links include a book + CD pairing!) You can draw alongside your children while listening to the music as a fun art activity. Our family also loves the game Pick and Draw for exploring emotions through art. Looking through picture books to see how different artists portray emotions is a great art appreciation activity that doubles as an emotional intelligence exercise.

Talk about Emotions

Talking through your own emotions is a wonderful way for children to develop emotional intelligence. Talk your way through both negative and positive emotions, and explain how you identify different emotions.


Play pretend games with your kids. Create dramatic make-believe characters with BIG emotions. Let them get VERY angry, and also let them be absurdly calm. Add plenty of humor to keep things light.

Teach Coping Skills

Big emotions are a fact of life. Emotional intelligence is all about recognizing emotions and then dealing with them responsibly. Whether you use pressure breathing, meditation, pressure points, math equations (to engage your thinking brain), or all of the above, knowing how to calm yourself down is an important life skill. Pressing on the spot just under your nose while breathing in works wonders for me, and my three-year-old is a huge fan as well. We have yet to convince the rest of the family that it is worth looking silly.

What are your top tips for raising emotionally intelligent children? Do you have any favorite books we should check out or activities we should try?

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MaryAnne is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

14 thoughts on “Raising Emotionally Intelligent Children”

  1. Great article! The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm (by LeVar Burton and me!, illustrated by Courtenay Fletcher) is another resource to help parents start a dialogue with their kids about big emotions, in an engaging, accessible way. The book focuses on a rhino who swallows a storm that’s taken away everything dear to his heart – then goes on a journey and meets friends who help him release the storm inside. There are even reflection/discussion questions at the end. I’d be happy to send you a copy! xoxo

  2. I love the idea of using music to explore emotions! Great suggestions on those books with CDs. We love the Llama Llama series! Those books are soooo helpful.

  3. This is probably the number one indicator of success for adults; emotional intelligence! What is amazing is that kids CAN be taught this, but it’s not really in any school curriculum. There are classes for kids who need help with this though if you seek it out via therapy type of services.

  4. I agree the Ramona books, despite being 50 years old in some cases perfectly explore the emotions young kids feel. When we read them last year my kids devoured them in great chunks.

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