How to Help Toddlers Succeed When Dealing with Strong Emotions Using Flash Cards

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The toddler stage is an interesting one. Toddlers are small in size but they experience the biggest emotions. They have been absorbing language from the very beginning of their life and are now capable of using that language. And boy do they talk! They are adorable, no doubt. But the tantrums paint a different picture.

cards with children showing different emotions

This stage in their lives can also be the best opportunity to nurture their emotional intelligence as they start to explore these big feelings. Being equipped with the right knowledge and tools is a great start to navigating this challenging time of tantrums and explosive behavior.

In this article, I would like to share how we use three of our favorite Montessori Nature printables to teach about emotions and to help process them.

A to Z Emotions

We use the A to Z Emotions Cards to start with three emotions at this time: Angry, Happy, Nervous. I like to hang up a few cards at a time on our wall. My 2-year old cannot read yet. So the words under each photo are great ‘environment words’ to expose the children to letters and get familiarized with them even before they can identify phonemes.

cards with children expressing different emotions

My son is at the point when his language abilities are rapidly expanding so I am testing the waters by introducing phonemic awareness, sounding out the first sound of words. So I try to enunciate /a/ when pointing to the word “Angry” in the cards.

cards with children expressing different emotions

Every time my son throws a tantrum, we show him the card ANGRY and ask, “Are you angry?”. I also teasingly say, “Your face looks like this”. I’m surprised that he actually laughs and says the kid’s face is funny. It starts to diffuse the tension – a moment I very much adore.

Emotions and Feelings Pack

I love how different realistic photos were provided for each emotion/feeling in the Emotions and Feelings Pack. It’s a great start to teaching a specific emotion and giving toddlers time to internalize and associate the word with what they’re feeling.

cards with children expressing different emotions

I also love the diversity in the photos. They bring awareness to what the real world looks like. We don’t have much opportunity to travel outside of the country so I really appreciate how this can help my toddler learn about other countries. I am hoping that by giving him exposure to these activities, I can help him create an internal understanding that will foster respect for other cultures apart from our own.

cards with children expressing different emotions

We are currently immersing ourselves in the ‘scared’ photos as my son gets easily scared by the loud sounds of trucks and fireworks or sound effects when we watch movies.
When we have the opportunity to sit down or when the topic arises, I show him all the different photos of children being scared. Then we talk about the things that scare or startle him. He still confuses the two but we’re working on understanding the difference.

The three-part cards are also useful even for a toddler. I gave him the opportunity to explore the photos on his own by leaving the cards on his shelf. I started with the cards “Angry” and “Silly”. Then, after some time, I introduced the words to him “formally” using the three-period lesson.

Putting a label to the feeling of being scared brings awareness to what he’s feeling. This is one of the first steps towards having empathy and emotional intelligence in young children. I see this manifest whenever I get my moments of being overwhelmed and tired. He would ask me if I’m tired. That really warms my heart. He knows this because I ask him if he’s tired when he gets easily angry and frustrated and I know he just needs a nap.

Calm Down Flash Cards

Say what you feel, build a tower and knock it down, find a quiet spot to read a book, create something (my son loves to paint), go on a swing. I love these selections of activities included in the printable that help children calm down. The photos are realistic and beautiful. They really capture my toddler’s attention.

cards for self-regulation

When my toddler gets upset, the first thing I would do is acknowledge his feelings. It can be as simple as, “You’re crying. You seem upset because of so and so”. Mostly, he would nod and then get a bit calmer. I acknowledge his behavior and voice out the reason for his behavior. By doing it I am letting him know that he is heard and it’s totally okay to experience those emotions.

cards for self-regulation

When he gets physical and starts to hit and intentionally throws things at me, I tell him that I will not allow that. “Allow all emotions but not all behavior” is what I always remember from Simone Davies’s book The Montessori Toddler.

When he’s ready to talk, I take the Calm Down cards and suggest to him different ways he can process his emotions without hitting or throwing. These cards have also helped me process my emotions as well. Whenever I feel overwhelmed, I try to read or go on a swing too. Letting my child know how I feel and trying out different strategies to calm down is a good way to model what regulating emotions can look like. It sends him the message that it’s normal to feel emotions but that there are ways to process them without aggressive behavior.

Our toddlers are designed beautifully and it is wonderful to nurture every aspect of their development, not just teach them to master academic skills. Academics are very important and valuable but teaching about emotions and fostering good emotion regulation is also a skill in life that will greatly impact their lives.


About the Author
Dahna is a mom to a two-year-old boy that loves to build towers and fix his little cars. She works at home as a Virtual Assistant. Her appreciation for the Montessori method grows deeper by the day. You can find her sharing daily stories of her Montessori work from home life on her Instagram page: https://instagram.com/dahnalaiza


Children’s books about AND PRINTABLES emotions and feelings

children's books about emotions and feelings

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  About Anastasia. Anastasia is a former Early Childhood Teacher and the founder of Montessori Nature, a blog about Montessori - inspired and Nature-based explorations. She taught in a Montessori setting for 10 years and has been practicing the Montessori way of learning and living for the last 20 years. She loves designing engaging educational printables for children. Browse Anastasia's educational resources on Teachers Pay Teachers.


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