Emotional cues are abundant in our daily lives. How do young children make sense of these cues? In my research, I study how infants and children use observed emotional signals to reason about the unknown world and to guide their learning and exploration. These abilities, I propose, are supported by an intuitive theory of emotion that is connected to children’s knowledge of the physical and social world broadly. The work spans methods from infant looking time measures to computational models. It advances our understanding of the remarkable human capacities to learn in social contexts, and bridges gaps across disciplines including developmental, cognitive and affective sciences.