13 phrases to build your child’s emotional intelligence

“I wonder if you are feeling really angry.”

13 phrases to build your child’s emotional intelligence

Childhood is filled with challenges for both parent and child. While children are learning to manage their emotions, parents are learning ways to help their little ones. It can definitely be hard to keep our own cool when our child is losing it, let alone find the words to help them through it.

But our children have much fewer tools in their toolbox to help control big feelings. And in order to provide them with new tools, we need to put in some time and words to show we are there for them and will help them through this.

This can be an even bigger challenge when we too are missing some tools in our own toolbox. We may have picked up some habits from our own parents without having realized it, but we have the opportunity to change the path for the next generation by making some changes for ourselves and our little ones.

There are a few keys to helping children build their emotional intelligence.


Give a name to the feeling you are noticing in your child, as this helps give children the labels to their feelings, and will make it easier for them to express feelings later.

Dr. Daniel Siegel suggests the idea that we have to “name it to tame it.” He explains how labeling the feeling can help active the more rational part of the brain, while getting the emotion center of the brain to calm down. Once children also learn to identify feelings in themselves, they are more likely to become aware and attuned to the feelings in others and be considerate of how to respond to them.

We cannot assume we know exactly what they are feeling, but we can help by suggesting some words:

  1. “I wonder if you are feeling really angry.”
  2. “You seem to be feeling sad.”
  3. “I hear how upset you are right now.”
  4. “This is really hard right now.”

Explain + validate

You can validate your child’s experience by helping state what just happened. Focusing on distracting or minimizing their experience (e.g., “Get up. You’re fine”), may feel like it works in the short-term, but it may make it more difficult for them to know what to do with these big feelings in the long run. And we know that distracting only “works” while they are young.

Additionally, sometimes adults may unintentionally minimize their child’s feelings because it can just be plain uncomfortable to see our child have such big feelings or for it to happen in a public setting where we may worry that others see our child’s difficulties as a reflection on our parenting skills.

These big feelings are not a reflection on our parenting. By putting words to what just happened we help our child feel understood and make sense of their feelings. This will help them boost their coping as they grow.

You might say something like:

  1. “You fell and your knee got scratched. Ouch!”
  2. “You really wanted to play at the park longer and now it’s too dark.”
  3. “It would be so much fun if we could play all night.”
  4. “You really want that toy too.”


Helping your child cope with the big feelings now, is like giving them a tool that they get to use for the rest of their lives. They may not know how to use it right away, since like anything else it will take some practice.

Your child may not even accept the coping that you offer and may need some space (while still being supervised), but that is because they are still trying to get a handle on their feelings.

You will figure out what your child needs, but here are some things you can suggest:

  1. “We can take some deep breaths together, so it can help you feel better.”
  2. “When you’re ready we can try to put the tower of blocks back together.”
  3. “I will move over to the couch and I am here for you when you want a hug.”
  4. “I can help you with your scratched knee.”
  5. “Would you like to ask her if you can play with that toy once she is done? We can play with this while we wait.”

By putting reflections, explanations, and coping skills together you are giving your child the foundational skills to manage emotions as they grow up. Most important of all, though, is demonstrating healthy coping when you are finding yourself getting upset or bothered and giving yourself space to cool off. Like anything… it can take practice.

Without camps and back-to-school plans still TBD, the cries of "I'm bored!" seem to be ringing louder than ever this summer. And if you're anything like me, by August, I'm fresh out of boxes to check on my "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys.

With that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite wooden toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


Why do all of my good parenting or baby-focused inventions come after they've already been invented by someone else? Sigh.

Like the Puj hug hooded baby towel, aka the handiest, softest cotton towel ever created.

Safely removing a wet, slippery baby from the bath can be totally nerve-wracking, and trying to hold onto a towel at the same time without soaking it in the process seems to require an extra arm altogether. It's no wonder so much water ends up on the floor, the countertops, or you(!) after bathing your little one. Their splashing and kicking in the water is beyond adorable, of course, but the clean up after? Not as much.

It sounds simple: Wash your child, sing them a song or two, let them play with some toys, then take them out, place a towel around them, and dry them off. Should be easy, peasy, lemon squeezy, right?

But it hasn't been. It's been more—as one of my favorite memes says—difficult, difficult, lemon difficult. Because until this towel hit the bathtime scene, there was no easy-peasy way to pick up your squirming wet baby without drenching yourself and/or everything around you.

Plus, there is nothing cuter than a baby in a plush hooded towel, right? Well, except when it's paired with a dry, mess-free floor, maybe.

Check out our favorites to make bathtime so much easier:

Keep reading Show less

This viral post about the 4th trimester is exactly what new mamas need right now

"We are alone. Together. You are surrounded all the other mothers who are navigating this tender time in isolation. You are held by all of us who have walked the path before you and who know how much you must be hurting. You are wrapped in the warm embrace of mama earth, as she too settles into this time of slowness and healing."

Artist and teacher Catie Atkinson at Spirit y Sol recently shared a beautiful drawing of a new mom crying on a couch—leaking breasts, newborn baby, pile of laundry and what we can only assume is cold coffee, included. Everything about the image is so real and raw to me—from the soft stomach to the nursing bra and the juxtaposition of the happy wallpaper to the palpable vulnerability of the mother—I can almost feel the couch underneath me. I can feel the exhaustion deep in this woman's bones.

My heart feels the ache of loneliness right alongside hers. Because I remember. I remember the confusion and uncertainty and love and messy beauty of the fourth trimester so well. After all, it's etched in our minds and bodies forever.

Keep reading Show less