North Carolina Early Learning and Development Progressions: Birth to Five

Domain: NC Foundations for Early Learning: Emotional and Social Development (ESD)

Subdomain: Learning About Feelings

Goal: Children identify, manage, and express their feelings.

Skill Progression: Emotional expression

Age: 27-30 Months

Click here to go to all skills for ages 27-30 Months.

Produces complex (but subtle) facial expressions, depicting doubt, worry, confusion, exhilaration, and joy

Situations for Observation of Skill

Observe the child in an unusual situation. Going into a new situation, such as into a museum or going on a forest walk introduces the child to unfamiliar and unusual items which may elicit a mixture of emotions.

Elicitation Strategy

As the child explores, questions, and discovers the world, she experiences a broader range of emotions, from elation to confusion to anxiety. Observe the child with unusual objects, such as a strange insect, or a picture of an ugly or strange animal. If this is not possible, ask the adult about the child’s responses and facial expressions in previous unusual or extreme situations.

Behavior Observed

Complex facial expressions are often a combination of simple emotional expression. Key recognizable emotions such as fear and disgust may demonstrate anxiety or worry. Happiness and surprise combined may show elation. Examine the child’s facial expression as she studies the pictures of strange creatures. What emotions are seen? Interest? Worry? Disgust? Or a combination of these. Initial responses may change as the child examines more pictures.

Routines-based Intervention (Embedded Instruction)

Help early childhood educators and parents appreciate that it is important to read facial and body cues in order to understand the inner world of the child. When they understand how the child is experiencing the world, they can help the child label these complex feelings and help her manage her emotions. Labeling emotions gives the child control over something that is very abstract and perhaps unsettling to her. Demonstrate for parents how to recognize and talk about feelings with their child.

 North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, 2015

©2015 by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit