4 Powerful Strategies To Build A Strong Emotional Foundation In A Child

One of the most crucial responsibilities of a parent, caregiver or an early childhood educator is to build a strong emotional foundation in a child. Since humans are emotional beings, the ability to manage one’s emotions is not only important for an individual, it is also fundamentally essential.

Before You Read Further: It is important for you to note that this article covers strategies and tips for parents, caregivers and early childhood educators alike. There are certain sections that may seem be exclusively meant for educators, but they are indeed meant for parents and caregivers too. After all, Parents are the first teachers of every child ever born!

In this article:

  1. Why the Need to Build Strong Emotional Foundation in a Child?
  2. The 4 Strategies to Build Strong Emotional Foundation in a Child
  3. Strategies to Build a Strong Emotional Foundation in an Infant
  4. Strategies to Build a Strong Emotional Foundation in a Toddler
  5. Strategies to Build a Strong Emotional Foundation in a Preschooler

Why the Need to Build Strong Emotional Foundation in a Child?

A strong emotional foundation enhances the ability of an individual to cope up with life’s every challenges, initiate new relationships, develop new relationships into healthy relationships, grow healthy relationships into deeper and stronger relationships and carve one’s own identity in the process.

Researchers also do observe that a building a strong emotional foundation in a child, especially during early childhood years, has a positive impact on:

  • The child’s attitudes and behavior during the growing-up years and their future as an adult
  • The display of good academic performance, extra-curricular activities and achievements
  • Their career and the overall derivation of holistic growth and development outcomes

The moment we realise the significance of creating an emotional foundation, the question about how to create the same automatically crops up in our minds. The strategies to be adopted cannot be the same for every child, be it during the early years or across the whole lifespan, as it usually varies with the individual needs and the developmental characteristics and concerns of each child.

The 4 Strategies to Build Strong Emotional Foundation in a Child?

The strategies would be discussed under three major heads, namely:

  1. Building strong emotional foundation among infants
  2. Building strong emotional foundation among toddlers
  3. Building strong emotional foundation among preschoolers

The strategies across each of the three major heads above would deal with the three aspects, namely:

  • Create a predictable nurturing environment?
  • Support to develop social skills?
  • Recognise and talk about emotions?

The strategies for toddlers and preschoolers however, would deal with one more aspect (in addition to the three aspects above meant for infants), which is:

  • How to encourage positive behaviours and disciplinary practices?

The 4 Strategies

Overall therefore, the strategies to create a strong emotional foundation across the age groups, namely infants, toddlers and preschoolers contain four aspects:

  1. Create a predictable nurturing environment?
  2. Support to develop social skills?
  3. Recognise and talk about emotions?
  4. Encourage positive behaviours and disciplinary practices?

Also Read : Role of Parents in Emotional Development during Early Childhood

Building Strong Emotional Foundation among Infants

Strategy 1: Create a Predictable Nurturing Environment

A safe, secure and affectionate environment from the time of birth is a crucial element to establish a strong psychological foundation. Given below are some of the strategies to achieve them:

1. Talk, Read and Sing Together

Infants learn by interaction with others and the environment. So sing and talk with them every day so that the child feels loved and special.

2. Provide Warm and Responsive Consistent Care

So cuddle the child whenever needed. Smile and laugh with them all through the day. Try to read them with the cues they provide you and fulfill their needs in a sensible manner.

3. Maintain Orderly and Predictable Routines

Showing cues that all essential needs of the child is fulfilled helps a child to feel safe and secure. However, while trying to take care of the needs, try to follow an orderly routine. For example, maintain a regular feeding and sleeping time.

4. Be Aware of the Child by Following their Lead

Closely following the child helps an adult to be mindful of the needs and desires of the child, and in turn can plan routine activities based on their interests and needs.

Strategy 2: Support Children to Develop Social Skills

It is a proven fact that social skills determine the attitude towards lifelong learning and the level of happiness. Here are some ways to foster it:

1. Play Simple Games with Infants

Play games like peekaboo, taking turns, cooing back with the same rhythm or some simple games to establish the art of taking turns, which facilitates better social development.

2. Be a Role Model

As Albert Bandura has absorbed, the child learns through observation. Hence the adult should be a good role model for the child to imitate. When a child sees a live model exhibiting kindness, expressing joy in an appropriate manner and handling situations in a calm manner, it helps a child to learn how to behave.

3. Imitate the Child’s Facial Expressions and Sounds

When the adults imitate certain activities of the child, the child in turn learns the skills of imitation.

Strategy 3: Recognize and Talk about Emotions

Encourage the child to articulate their feelings that might be positive or negative, so that the child learns to express appropriate emotions. Here are 3 tips:

1. Attempt to Read the Moods of the Child

Learn to read the emotions of the child and respond appropriately. Reading and responding to emotions is an ongoing process and can be built only over time. What is important is that you take the initiative to kick-start the process, first, and be at it.

2. Help the Child to Calm Himself

Thumb-sucking is okay under specific circumstances, as it helps the baby to self-soothe. Moreover it is said that thumb-sucking is the first step in managing emotions. It is therefore okay to allow thumb-sucking sometimes.

3. Articulate the Feelings of the Child

By saying things like “Oh! You look so happy today. Tell me why?” the child recognize he/she is being attended to and will be enthused to respond.

Also Read : 19 Best Activities for Social and Emotional Development from 0 to 6 months

Building Strong Emotional Foundation among Toddlers

Strategy 1: Create a Predictable Nurturing Environment

A nurturing physical environment and certain positive social and environmental elements facilitates the learning and exploration potential of the child. Moreover, the social and emotional factors fosters positive interactions and relationship.

Here are some ways to create a nurturing physical environment for the child.

1. Use One-to-One Interaction

Use any opportunity they need to have a one-to-one interaction, be it a smile, a hug or just simple kind words.

2. Developmentally Appropriate Play & Activities

 Provide developmentally appropriate and safe play equipment and books, as safe access of books and toys helps a child to use and explore them independently.

3. Maintain an Orderly Daily Routine

A child should understand the order of routine to develop her own sense of control over daily events.

4. Respond Differently to Different Children

Every child is unique is unique, including the closest of twins. The parent, caregiver or educator should therefore respond differently to different children and have a right balance of learning, and encourage both active and quiet activities.

5. Celebrate Special Occasions

To develop a sense of appreciation towards a culture, the educator should organize celebration of common festivals and special occasions.

Strategy 2: Support children to Develop Social Skills

The social skills of toddlers get fostered through their interaction with parents and caregivers at home and with the educators at school. To promote social skills of the toddlers:

1. Provide Opportunities for Group Activities

You may choose to set a target and allow the children to play in a group. This kind of group play will facilitate and enable them to open up and have better interaction.

2. Provide Choices to Indulge in Activities

As much as possible, provide varied choices for the child to choose an activity based on his or her interest. The choices offered to them will in turn help them to feel heard, attended and engaged.

3. Model Positive Dispositions

Children learn what they see. That’s why certain positive dispositions like sharing and taking turns has to be demonstrated by the educator himself/herself. This is one of the most effective ways to make a child demonstrate right and appropriate behaviours.

4. Encourage Friendships

This cannot be emphasized enough. Toddlers usually indulge in parallel play, but the parent/educator should give a chance for them to play with peers/siblings rather than play next to the peer. These early friendships can lay a very strong foundation towards the development of social skills.

Strategy 3: Recognize and Talk About Emotions

Recognizing and articulating the true feelings and emotions are the key aspects of healthy emotional development. Certain tips for the educators include:

1. Talk about Emotions

It might be through stories and role plays where you can identify and discuss the emotions of the characters to the child in a way that he/she can understand.

2. Express Your Own Feelings and Emotions

Express your own feelings and emotions by articulating them. This way, you serve as a model for the child to express his or hers.

3. Offer Comfort and Confidence

The child should realise that it is okay to have some negative feelings like anger or fear. Reassure them from time-to-time that you are there for him to cope with these emotions.

4. Teach the Child to Handle Emotions

Try to make the child learn strategies to deal with their emotions. For example, soothe them with a hug.

Strategy 4: Encourage Positive Behaviors and Disciplinary Practice

Setting up limits or boundaries with lots of encouragement and motivation helps a child to develop positive behaviors. Some of the key strategies that has to be adopted by the parent/educator are:

1. Set Realistic Expectations

As an educator, be aware of the milestones to be accomplished by a child for that particular age. In other words, expectations on them are should always be developmentally appropriate for their age.

For example, do not expect a toddler to sit in a place for a long time, as it is the age of curiosity, exploration and discovery. Instead of restricting their movement, just provide them with some materials that can keep them engaged.

2. Be a Positive Role Model

As already discussed earlier in this article, the parent/educator should carry themselves as a role model for the child to adopt positive behaviors.

3. Set Limits in a Subtle Manner

Toddlers are just becoming aware of the rules and regulations. So be calm and patient while setting them their limits. Your demeanor matters a lot when you set limits for them, as children almost never reciprocate or comply to limits when they see adults anxious, angry or insecure.

4. Provide Positive Feedback

While feedback is essential, when positive feedback is used aptly, it reinforces a child to proactively adopt positive behaviors.

Note: In addition to the tips provided for toddlers above, selective tips provided for preschoolers below can also be used the educator while dealing with toddlers.

Also Read : 27 Effective Social and Emotional Development Activities from 6 to 36 Months

Building Strong Emotional Foundation among Preschoolers

Strategy 1: Create a Predictable Nurturing Environment

Creating a strong sense of community becomes a prime outcome of creating a predictable nurturing environment for preschoolers. Hence the parent/educator should:

1. Provide Adequate Care

Providing a warm, consistent and responsive care allows the child to feel confident and independent to not only deal with but also solve challenge he/she faces.

2. Use Information to Enhance Their Learning

Use information gathered through observations and assessment of the child and use that knowledge to help them to enhance their learning and taken it even further.

3. Prompt about Transition

It can get really challenging to get children move from one activity to the other. That’s why it becomes important to prompt or (kind of) warn by saying “In five minutes we have to move to the class room.” And it’s okay to give one or (maximum) two additional reminders too, if necessary.

Strategy 2: Support Children to Develop Social Skills

As preschoolers engage in pretend play, the educator should adopt specific tips to encourage cooperative play and develop early friendships. For this, they should:

1. Foster Social Skills through Daily Activities

Most of the routine activities can be used to help children practice, turn taking, group play and positive interactions. Always remember that some children may involve themselves into the activity easily, whereas others need a little additional push. So, it is your role to provide them with that additional push.

2. Encourage Pretend Play

Motivate the child to develop and enact a role play. This for sure would help the child to analyze the roles and responsibilities of a person.

3. Use Kids Books

Provide books for children that can involve in group reading or taking turns in reading. This can also foster social skills, including group dynamics.

Strategy 3: Recognize and Talk About Emotion

The preschoolers have got the potential to label and discuss their emotions. So the educator along with practicing the tips that is mentioned for the toddler, they have to:

1. Let the Child Know that his/her Emotion Matters

Take the necessary efforts to make the child realise that he or she is heard well and listened to, and give praise and/or provide give constructive feedback when they articulate their feeling.

2. Facilitate the Child to Understand Others’ Feelings

The importance of this strategy can’t be emphasized enough, as it has an incredibly positive impact on the child and makes a huge difference when they grow into an adult.

One way to do this, is to narrate a story to a child and ask the child “Tell me how would you feel if they were that character in the story?” Also ask “Why do you feel that way?” By asking such questions, you help the child to not only recognize but also understand and empathise others’ feelings.

Strategy 4: Encourage Positive Behaviors and Disciplinary Practices

The child’s ability to make choices and clear display of behavior considerably enhances during preschool years, therefore making work of an educator more complicated. The parent/educator can carryout the following to foster strong emotional foundation:

1. Set Expectations Clearly

Discuss clearly what and how the child is expected to behave, be it in general or specific to certain situations. Take efforts to clearly articulate and give a vivid picture of what is acceptable behavior and what is not.

2. Teach Calm-Down Strategies

The parent/educator should stay calm with the child when they exhibit tantrums and hurt themselves or others in the process. Some of the calming-down strategies that can be taught to the child are given below:

  • Take the child to a quiet place and practice deep-breathing with him or her.
  • Ask the child to portray the situation that made them upset and ask them to narrate a story based on it.
  • Provide a soft toy/favourite toy for the child who’s angry.
  • Try to engage the child in problem-solving activities. Over time, this can help the child to solve everyday problems and challenges concerning taking turns and cooperating, among others. 


The manner in which the seeds were sowed to build a strong emotional foundation in a child by his or her parents, caregiver or educator during early childhood is critical, as it almost entirely determines the capacity of the child to manage emotions effectively and the ability to demonstrate emotions intelligently when he/she grows into an adult.

In other words, execution is key. This is the reason why is becomes important for parents, caregivers and educators to educate themselves on the strategies and facilitate what they have learned to their child.

Disclaimer: The content in this page and across this website are for informational and educational purposes only. In case of any concerns about your child’s growth and development, please contact your professional child healthcare provider.