Improve Your Child’s Emotional Intelligence Through Movement and Dance!

What is emotional intelligence in early childhood?

Emotional intelligence at all ages is the ability to recognize emotions in oneself and in others. It is also the skill of being able to respond to our feelings and those of others rather than react to them.

How can I improve my child’s emotional intelligence?

There are various ways you can improve your child’s emotional intelligence but basically, all of them start with the development of your own EQ skills! Children learn to be emotionally intelligent when we model the best ways to express our feelings, when we talk about emotions and give them names, when we are able to display and model empathy and when we model healthy coping skills ourselves.

Children’s emotional intelligence can also be improved when we directly teach children about emotions such as when reading a book or discussing emotions. But one of the best ways to teach awareness of emotions is through movement and this is because emotions are motion! When we feel emotions, we feel them throughout our bodies and we can describe how different emotions make our bodies feel and move. For example when we are angry we may want to stomp our feet or punch our arms out because we feel like we are about to explode compared to when we are happy and our body feels light and we want to skip or jump for joy.

The following dance classes for toddlers, preschoolers and kids that I developed are great ways of helping your child improve their emotional intelligence because they make children aware of the movement and motion of their bodies when feeling emotions. Not only does this help them understand their own emotions, but helps them to identify the feelings and emotions in others! To further help classify emotions I have connected them with colors to amplify learning not only to emotions but also to color recognition and their symbiotic nature.

These lessons delve deeply into how we express and carry emotion through and within our entire bodies, not just through our minds, faces, or in our words. In the RED, BLUE, and the YELLOW lesson it is extremely clear that our bodies react differently when we feel for example Anger compared to how we move when we are sad or happy. This recognition engages a child’s ability to develop their emotional intelligence. It makes them more aware of their own emotions and how to detect the emotions others may be feeling by becoming aware of how their body moves and feels.

I feel one of the most important lessons in this class is that emotions are also temporary. That they pass, change, go away and come back and that you can help certain emotions pass through your body by changing the way you move your body. This in no way means that I am promoting not feeling all your emotions, or for example, as soon as you feel angry to start skipping, but I feel it is a helpful tool to know that for example later in life if you are constantly feeling sad or upset, that although it may not take away those feelings, moving your body in different ways to that emotion will help help them change and for you to pass through them and not stay stagnate or locked inside of them.

Is my child emotionally intelligent?

The way our brains grow and develop can make it difficult for parents to assess whether their child is emotionally intelligent. The part of our brain that helps us to respond rather than react takes time to develop and many adults still struggle with the skill because it was never taught explicitly to them – infact many adults were taught to hide or not talk about their feelings and so they effectively shut of this intelligence out of shame or constant belittlement.

All children and adults have some capacity of emotional intelligence, even many children with Autism, with help and teaching, are able to identify their lack of ability to detect emotions or difficulty with them, which on some level is a form of emotional intelligence. But emotional intelligence, just like our regular IQ needs consistent development to grow, learn and get better and bigger!

But if your child is able to recognize emotions in themselves and others, name them, describe them to you or shows compassion or empathy to others they are showing emotional intelligence and it is your job to nurture and grow their EQ!

At what age can a child control their emotions?

WebMD writes that by age 5 children are much better at being able to regulate their emotions. As the mother of a five-year-old as well as having older and younger children I would agree that at this age children are more emotionally intelligent, but that there is no magic number for every child where they suddenly stop having meltdowns and show empathy in every situation – I mean come on, can you even do this???

From my experience not only as a parent but from having taught 5-8-year-olds in a classroom, at this age many children are more aware of what is socially appropriate in regards to expressing their emotions, for example, being resilient all day at school in front of their teacher and peers, but then coming home with a backpack full of unexpressed frustrations, fears or anxiety that they unpack over the course of an evening sometimes through anger or tears because home is a safe place to show their emotions.

Is IQ better than EQ?

Daniel Goleman the pioneer of emotional intelligence literature and research in his book Emotional Intelligence argues that Emotional Intelligence is more important than Intellectual Intelligence, something that we measure and call IQ.

Today experts reason that our level of intelligence is not the determinent of our success, but being emotionally intelligent improves your chances of being successful! Today’s Parent writes that emotional intelligence is a better predictor of your child’s success and that employers today hire people based on high EQ because those people ‘will not only be able to do the job but will also be better equipped to read workplace situations, get along with co-workers, collaborate and solve problems.’

What are the characteristics of emotional intelligence?

Some of the characteristics of emotional intelligence are:

  • Compassion
  • Understanding
  • Empathy
  • Self-Awareness and regulation
  • Clear Communication
  • Sympathy
  • Resilience
  • Responsiveness over Reactiveness
  • Conscious Awareness
  • Reflection

Great Books to Read About Emotional Intelligence:

Looking back, I think I was first explicitly introduced to Emotional Intelligence through my teaching degree when we learned about Gardners Multiple Intelligence theory, which claims there are 9 areas of intelligence and that we all excell more or less at each of them. But it wasn’t until I had my own children and began to research and learn more about parenting philosophies that I truly began to embrace the teachings from people such as Daniel Goleman, Dr Daniel Siegel and Dr Laura Markham about the importance of emotional intelligence and helping it to develop in our children. Therefore the following are some books and resources I would suggest you look into if you are wanting to do more of your own research on the topic.

All links are affiliate to Amazon meaning, if you choose to purchase a book I receive a small compensation which basically pays me to work on Move Dance Learn and develop it’s resources for you!


Having been a teacher, I am always looking at ways to creatively teach children and regularly used dance and movement in my classrooms to support understanding of concepts and material we were learning about in different areas of the school curriculum. This is exactly the type of lesson I would use as a springboard to cover the above learning outcomes in an actual school setting.

The following are some links and connections that can be made from this movement series on shapes to various other areas of learning!

Mathematics and Arithmetic

  • Using colors to create and identify patterns
  • Use colors as a stimulus to gather data, create surveys and graphs, for example, asking others what their favorite color is, sampling cars in a car park to determine the most popular color car.
  • Record your emotions for a whole day or week on a chart – this is gathering data, then analyze your chart, create mood graphs and make statements about the data you gathered for example – I was angry at 12 and 3pm because I was hungry etc…

English and Literacy

  • Emotion spelling lists.
  • Create an emotion dictionary or thesaurus which contains an explanation of each emotion and a list of antonyms and synonyms for each.
  • Write a short narrative or fictional story based on the theme of an emotion.
  • Use emotional language to write a persuasive text.

Social Studies

  • What is emotional intelligence? and why is it important?
  • How are emotions used to persuade or create moods in advertising?
  • How is the display of emotions different from culture to culture.

Science and Biology

  • Where do emotions come from in our bodies?
  • What happens in our brains when we feel different emotions?
  • Do other species feel and have emotions?

Personal Development Health and Physical Education

  • Circle time using emotion cards.
  • Creating faces with magazines or art supplies that depict and show different emotions and discussing when we feel these emotions, how our bodies and minds react, and how to feel safe and keep others safe when we feel we are losing control of our emotions.
  • Use the dance class as a springboard for discussions about emotional health, depression, mental disorders such as bi-polar when it feels like just in the dance class you are on an emotional rollercoaster.
  • Discuss hormonal changes and how this can affect the balance of our emotions.

Creative Arts

  • How is color used in art to create: Mood, Style, shadow, shape, expression, emotion etc..
  • Create art works that depict emotions.
  • How do artists create emotion in their work?
  • The point of art is to make you feel something when you encounter it, ow does art do this?

Samantha Bellerose

Samantha trained and worked professionally as a dancer and has a Diploma in Dance as well as a Bachelor's Degree in Education. She currently runs Dance Parent 101 as well as Move Dance Learn whilst caring for her four children and enjoying life with her Husband.

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