How would you teach the concept of stress to a 5-year-old?

Today our 5yo son was having trouble listening and following directions to get prepped to go sledding with our friends.

My wife asked if he felt stressed and decided to show him what that meant.

She went to the sink and grabbed a glass.

She said, "What's this?"

He knew. "A glass."

"That's right. And if I'm mad that my sister did something to me, I might fill it up a little."

She proceeds to fill it up about 1/4 of the way.

She continues. "And then, if mama tells me to do something and I don't want to..."

She fills it more, this time closer to the top.

"And then... even little things, like your socks not feeling good..."

She continues filling it until the cup starts to overflow.

"What happens then?"

He knows. "It overflows."

"That's right! That's what stress means. Sometimes when things we don't like happen again and again and we don't relax our body, it builds up. That's when even little things can make our bodies overflow. Do you understand what I'm trying to teach you?"

He nods.

Later as we were leaving, his sister is having a fit.

He perks up:

"I think her cup is overflowing."

He was able to take that new connection and use it to explain what was happening in the world.

My wife could have explained stress in more abstract terms but she didn't, she created a learning experience. She used a metaphor that turned the idea of stress into something clear and concrete that a 5-year-old could comprehend.

When you're teaching a concept to your audience, you need to meet them where they're at – it's not about showcasing how much of an expert you are.

Instead, designing learning experiences means being human-centered. In this case, it meant simplifying a complex concept and visualizing it so a 5-year-old could comprehend. Describing a concept using a visual metaphor creates a picture in the learner's mind. When they experience the concept in action, that picture shows up and they can recognize it.

Have a lovely day,

Explain stress like I'm 5

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