Tips for tots: emotional awareness

Today we began to explore emotional awareness. For preschoolers, identifying emotions can be difficult. Keeping it simple and finding ways to make it concrete help them to become aware.

We did two things today. First, I added a "feelings check" to our circle time. I need to add a feelings chart to my classroom space, but for a first time around it went okay without one. To do the feeling check, we did it as our circle time greeting. It basically goes like this:

person 1: Hi, person 2. How are you feeling today?
person 2: Hi person 1. I feel _____.
person 1: Thank you for telling me.

I structure it this way so that children get to practice greeting someone appropriately, taking turns in a conversation, and acknowledging that you are listening to what the other person is saying. If your students are ready, then you can have them add a causal statement to their feeling sentence: "I feel ____, because _____." 

The second thing we did was create a feelings traffic light. This is to use in our tree house. It has 2 functions: help children identify the type of emotion they are having and help them to act on that emotion in an expected manner. By reducing the options for emotions, preschoolers don't get caught up in the exact feeling they have - that in itself can be overwhelming. The traffic light simplifies emotions to "good/sure," "okay/unsure," and "bad/not good."

When they are able to identify which type of emotion they have, they are then able to act on it. If you are feeling good, then you are ready to participate. If you are okay or unsure, then you need to ask for help or a hug. If you are feeling bad or not good, then you need to take a break from what is going on and might need help to feel better or fix the problem. This helps with safety. Children who are too frustrated or angry to play nicely can go to this space, reducing unwanted behavior like throwing, hitting, or biting.

This is the feelings traffic signal. I will add Velcro so that children can physically put their name where it fits best. This is posted just outside the tree house, so that if a child is in red they can be easily directed to use the private space.
Pillows and padding on the shelf help make this space cozy. It is meant to be inviting, so that children learn it is okay to need time alone.
The tree house is kept private by a half wall. It is visible throughout the play space, so it can be referenced visually to remind children there is a private space they can use.


  1. I love the feelings traffic light!

    1. Thanks! It works great. Once the kids knew what it was, they will walk up to it on their own and point to the one that matches them. :-)


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