Building an Emotional Vocabulary

Build your kids’ emotional vocabulary by creating a list of feelings. Keep this list displayed or easily accessible and refer back to it often to increase emotional awareness and communication skills!

One of the first steps in talking about emotions with kids is increasing their vocabulary. If we want them to be able to talk about how they are feeling, they must have the words to do so. When asked how they feel, most kids will resort to “good” or “bad.” But there’s so much more than that to tap into! The more we build up our kids’ emotional vocabulary, the more insight we’ll get into their emotions and the more our kids will be empowered to express themselves accurately.


In my classroom, one of the first social-emotional activities I do is to read the book Today I Feel Silly by Jamie Lee Curtis (check out other book recommendations). The book describes many feelings a child has and what happened that may have invoked those emotions. Before we read, I ask the kids to keep track of all of the different feelings this one character feels throughout the book. Afterwards, we create a list of emotions on chart paper, entitled “How Are YOU Feeling?” The kids start with the emotions in the book, but soon begin adding ones of their own. Soon that “bad” emotion breaks down into frustrated, angry, tired, left out, embarrassed; and “good” becomes excited, rested, motivated, proud, and so many more! This is also a great way to gauge where your kids are in their emotional awareness and can easily be tweaked based on age range and experience.

I keep the poster hanging in the classroom all year and we revisit it every so often to add more emotional words we’ve learned. It is also a great resource when asking a child to identify how they are feeling; I’ve had students ask to look at “the list” in order to pick the Just Right word that matches their feelings. It’s a great foundational piece for mindful awareness and can be used for many other activities!

#classroomactivities #allages #gettingstarted #activities

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