Online Tutorial, 'Understanding Emotions,' Now Available

I-LABS's latest free, online tool explains the science behind children's social-emotional development.
              A toddler may fall down, and then look to see if her parent is upset before deciding whether to cry. Or a child watching someone else receive a scolding may change his own behavior to avoid a similar reprimand.

These examples give real-world glimpses into children's social-emotional development, which is the topic of the Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences's latest online training module, "Understanding Emotions."

“Understanding another person’s emotions is critical for all kinds of skills that we want children to develop," said Sarah Roseberry Lytle, I-LABS' Director of Outreach and Education. "It plays a role in everything from making friends to showing empathy for others. These are all skills that prepare children for school and beyond.”

The free tool, posted online Sept. 10, is the fifth in a series of online tutorials intended to provide early childhood educators, caregivers and others with the latest science of child development.

Lasting 20 minutes, "Understanding Emotions" distills scientific studies that show how:

- Babies first express basic feelings, such as joy, sadness and disgust. Later on youngsters develop other emotions, including guilt, pride and shame.
- Children learn to use social cues – eye gaze, facial expressions, tone of voice, gestures – to identify what other's are feeling, which lets them predict other people's actions.
- Social referencing, looking to a familiar adult for emotional information like a supportive smile or a discouraging frown, helps children distinguish what's safe and how to react in a new situation. - Babies eavesdrop on other people's positive and negative interactions and then use that information to adapt their own behavior.
- Games like "Simon Says" and "Red Light, Green Light" reveal another aspect of a child's social-emotional development: his ability to control his own emotions and behavior, an important part of being ready for school.
- Later in childhood, children learn that other people may feel differently about a situation than they do and begin to respond to other people's emotions. This is the basis for empathy and building friendships.

Previously released modules include "Why the First 2,000 Days Matter," "The Importance of Early Interactions," and "The Power of Learning Through Imitation." Most of them last about 20 minutes. Anyone can watch them for free after registering online.

I-LABS, which is part of the University of Washington, aims to have about 50 modules over the next five years. The resources are part of the Ready Mind Project, a research and outreach endeavor.