Let’s talk about your toddler’s mental health. When toddlers scrape their knees, they recognise that they have an injury that requires attention. But when people are sick mentally, they may not realise how vital it is to care for their minds as well.
Some adults find it difficult to discuss mental health with children because they fear it will cause distress, don’t know how to discuss it or proper mental health activities for toddlers, or believe children shouldn’t know about it.
However, starting conversations about mental health with children at a young age can help them understand their emotions, become more resilient, lessen the stigma surrounding mental illness, and teach them how to care for themselves psychologically as well as physically.
Why is teaching your toddler about mental health important?
Teaching your toddler about mental health tips helps them:
Understand their own emotions
Know that their emotions are always valid
Speak out about how they feel
Have higher chances of having good mental health in the future
Toddlers and kids learn about their bodies, emotions, and place in the world as they grow. Emotional growth is essential for proper mental development.
Children learn about emotions and feelings at a young age. Even joy and fear are basic emotions that babies have. Talking about emotions with toddlers can help them understand what emotions are and why they occur.
Throughout the day, acknowledge how you and they are feeling by naming emotions using simple words to show them that their emotions are always valid: “I see you’re angry,” or “I’m sad because I lost my glasses.” Let them know it is normal to feel different emotions in different situations, encouraging them to express their emotions rather than keep them inside.
Emotional development is important for young children and as they keep information and learn behaviours so well, it will set them up well going forwards into adult life.
Mental health activities for toddlers to help your child learn about mental health
Use emotion cards
When teaching your toddler about good mental health, it’s time to get creative with mental health activities for toddlers. Talking with your toddler is one thing, but the best way to teach your toddler is often through play and games.
Studies have shown that healthy play benefits children in many ways. Playing, for example, boosts a child’s happiness and decreases their chances of depression and anxiety.
One method is to simply print out or draw cards with different facial expressions from happy to sad. Show your child each face and ask them to describe how they think the person is feeling.
These could include:
Sad – large frown, perhaps with tears
Unhappy – frown
Angry – closed eyes and gritted teeth with red face
Pleased – smile
Happy – wide, open smile
With sad or angry faces, take the chance to talk about how you can help a person who has that facial expression.
Roleplay with their favourite toys
Toddlers love playtime, and it’s a great chance to help them learn something new. To teach them about mental health, roleplay with them as a mental health activity for toddlers. This helps them picture situations in an engaging, memorable way.
For example, you could take their favourite teddy and pretend that the teddy is feeling sad or anxious. Ask your child to roleplay how you would help them. You can turn it around and ask your toddler to pretend their toy is sad and demonstrate how you approach them.
Show the importance of self-care
When your toddler is feeling unwell, encourage them to practise ‘self-care behaviours’.
This could include telling you or another trusted adult if something is bothering them, recognising when situations don’t make them feel good and coming up with solutions, or doing something that calms them down when they are unhappy, such as going outside or doing something creative.
A good way to show this is through creating mental health activities for toddlers based around self-care, for example letting them pick their own outfit, playing a game in the bath, getting them to brush their toy’s teeth.
Demonstrate how to deal with mental health at home
You can raise your toddler’s awareness of mental health and show them how to deal with it at home by talking about it regularly as a normal part of life.
Just like you teach them to eat vegetables to keep their bodies healthy, teach them how to be mentally healthy.
Sometimes you yourself might be having a bad day. If you hide this from your toddler, they’re going to think that bad days aren’t normal.
Instead, show your toddler how you deal with bad days. You might explain to your toddler that sometimes people have bad days and that’s okay, but you should always try and cheer yourself up.
You might then do an activity together, like watching a movie or going for a walk. Tell your toddler it makes you feel better to show them that you can turn a bad day around. Show them they are worth your precious time.
Teaching your toddler about mental health at Little Angels
Here at Little Angels Nursery, our fully trained staff are devoted to promoting good mental wellbeing for your toddler.We organise the day around learning and healthy child mental development activities. Get in touch or download our brochure to learn more about us.