One of our main goals at Tumbleweed is to provide children the opportunity to become confident and successful communicators. We've found that by supporting awareness of emotion, struggle, empathy, and emotional intelligence, we show them that they are heard and what they are feeling/saying/seeing/noticing/experience is important.
One of the ways we support children as communicators is by allowing children the freedom to interact with each other. If both children feel comfortable with the interaction we refrain from interrupting the experience. We step in only when it's necessary to ensure that everyone feels safe and secure. If a child doesn't like the touch they're receiving, we narrate how they are sending us that message so that both the communicator and the listener build skills. This work with infants and toddlers helps them blossom into both confident communicators and socially aware members of their society.
When we observe a child working to communicate, we orate information that will help all children involved build a sense of emotional awareness as well. We bring attention to what's happening, what we notice about how it's affecting children, and what's working or not working. We talk openly about the connections between what's happening and emotional reactions. The children learn to recognize the cause and effect patterns and connect emotion to facial features and sounds. Sometimes I draw their attention by saying something like, "Oh man. Look at H's face. It's scrunched up and he's feeling strongly.'
When children are able to interact freely with each other, naturally and with the support of positive communication and observation, they are able to develop their own awareness and emotional vocabulary. When children discover emotions for themselves they gain ownership that can last a life time. This moment becomes especially powerful when this awareness stems from the interactions of two children.
For us a Tumbleweed, we value the creation of an Emotionally Intelligent Child. This happens through peer interaction, self-awareness and ownership, and support from a well prepared caregiver and environment. None of this can happen without freedom or giving the child space and time to come to this awareness in their own way in their own time.