10 ways to understanding Children’s Emotions and The Learning Power of Play

Play and EmotionsPlay is an outlet for children to make sense of what they see, think and feel. It allows them the opportunity to express themselves, which is a vital part of their physical, intellectual and emotional development. Children can often struggle with their feelings and this frustration can lead to difficult behaviour, such as tantrums. It is important that parents take an active role in their child’s emotional development and to lead by example when it comes to expressing anger, sadness and frustration in a healthy way.

  1. The importance of play in a child’s life cannot be underestimated. Play is a child’s work and is ‘serious stuff’.
  2. Play helps children develop self-esteem and good social skills. It is also an important element in improving your child’s motor skills, problem-solving abilities and aids physical and intellectual development.
  3. Can you, as a parent, spend 20 minutes a day playing, listening and talking to your child?
  4. Our ability to feel and express our emotions helps us to stay connected with the world around us and to work through our feelings in healthy way.
  5. Children will express their sadness and grief quite naturally given the right amount of support. Children and young people learn how to express and deal with emotion from their parents and family members.
  6. We need fear to keep us safe. However, if children are too full of fear they will not be able to stand up for themselves or to express themselves. It is important to show children that feeling fear is normal. Tell them some of your fears and how you cope, in doing this, you enable your child to develop these skills too.
  7. Children need boundaries around the good stuff just like they need boundaries around fear and anger.
  8. Children’s natural impulse is to hit out when they feel angry. Adults need to be able to help children to manage and  express their anger in a healthy way.
  9.  A child who displays too little anger may be open to bullying and may be seen as a bit of a ‘wimp’ and a pushover.
  10. A child who expresses too much anger may become a bully and have difficulty in managing emotions without becoming aggressive or even violent. This can make it difficult for the child to have healthy social relationships.

This article is part of our weekly ’10 Ways to’ series of parenting tips, and is by One Family’s Director of Children and Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly. Coming up next week; 10 Ways to Talk to Your Child about Your Family Situation. 

LIVE Facebook Q&A on this topic with Geraldine, 2 March from 11am-12pm on One Family’s Facebook pageJoin in and post your questions.

Next you might like to read, 10 Ways to Support a Child Who is Being Bullied or 10 Ways to Support a Child Who is Bullying

Find out more about our parenting skills programmes and parent supports. For support and information on these or any related topics, call askonefamily on lo-call 1890 66 22 12 or email

Girl playing

10 Ways to Understand the Value of Play

For our ’10 Ways to …’ feature this week, we explore why play is important. Read on for our ‘10 Ways to Understand the Value of Play’.

The importance of play in a child’s life cannot be underestimated. Play is a child’s work and is “serious stuff”.

  1. Importance of play: Play fosters a child’s development in every way imaginable. Play helps develop self-esteem and social skills, motor skills, and aids physical development and a child’s intelligence.
  2. Different forms of play: There are many ways in which children play.  Play can be inside or out, using toys or using household items. The imagination can be very active or the child may be focused on a puzzle or constructing a tower. It might be with water or sand, paint or dough. They may love dolls and playing house. Whatever it is, they are learning. Add things in for children to play with which will extend their learning. Such as water in the sand, bubbles in the water etc.
  3. Language: Through play, children are learning new words every day. They are playing with parents and others and have to use language to communicate and play the game they want.
  4. The 20 minute tool: By sitting with and playing with your child every day for 20 minutes, you will not only learn a vast amount of information about your child, how they think and how they see and feel the world but you will also be supporting them to play and helping them learn.
  5. Value play: Allow children time to play. Give them notice of when play time is up, as it’s time to eat or sleep or go out. Respect their time to play and notice when they are playing well with others.
  6. Social skills: Children learn how to socialise and be with others through play. Initially children like to play alone but as they reach school age they see the value in playing with others as opposed to alongside them. Sharing and taking turns can be hard work and play supports children to practice this.
  7. Emotions: You will often see children play the same role play game over and over and then one day it stops. Children will act out what they see important adults in their lives do. This helps them to learn and to understand what is happening and the roles we are playing in the world.
  8. Physical well-being: Outdoor play in particular is so important for children. They get their exercise through playing in the park, running, hide and seek, ball games etc. Children will be happier and more confident when they are fit and healthy.
  9. Aids learning: School can be difficult for some children. It is important to remember when they get in from school to allow play time. They need this to process what has happened in school, with teachers and with friends. They can feel energised after some play and then homework will usually go a lot smoother.
  10. All ages play: Children from birth onwards play, it just changes as they grow and develop. Play with your child from day one. Get comfortable with playing with them and you will be creating a solid foundation for your life together.

This ’10 Ways to …’ feature is compiled by Grace Mulligan, Crèche Team Leader, One Family.

Coming soon: 10 Ways to Make Bed Time Better and 10 Ways to Successful Toilet Training.

The One Family parenting skills courses Positive Parenting and Family Communications are enrolling now. Click here for information.

Free Children’s Concert 7 August

The Ark in Dublin are offering one-parent families free tickets to a concert on Sunday 7 August. There are 25 places and if you parent alone or share parenting and want to go you need to call Sarah at One Family, 01 6629212, as soon as possible. The Grant/ Kelly Family concert features RTÉ Lyric fm presenter Evelyn Grant who met her husband Gerard Kelly (Cork Pops Orchestra) when they were teenagers on the very first day the Irish Youth Orchestra began. She played the flute and he played the cello. They married and lived happily… well, they lived in a noisy house with their four children who played all kinds of instruments – lots of banging, plucking, scraping and blowing! They are looking forward to coming together from Cork, New York, Dublin and London to perform some of their favourite music in The Ark – and getting the audience involved too. Read more

Free concert tickets for one-parent families

If you are looking for some entertainment for the kids this weekend, The Ark in Dublin are offereing one-parent families free tickets to a concert this Saturday 23 July. There are 25 places and if you parent alone or share parenting and want to go you need to call Sarah at One Family, 01 6629212, by Friday. Read more