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Emotion Thermometers

Learning to recognize, verbalize, and manage feelings is an important part of social development in children. As young as pre-school age, children have the ability to identiy their emotions and the emotions of others, speak about their emotions, and regulate their emotions. Children who show greater competency in these areas tend to have better peer relationships, and they are viewed more favorably by teachers.

The Emotion Thermometers handout is a tool for helping children put a name to their feelings and rating their intensity. The colorfully illustrated faces help children recognize each emotion, and the simple rating scales allow them to indicate how intensely they feel each one. Children may color thermometers to their desired level, or make a single mark.

This resource is not diagnostic, but can be used in a variety of ways to build emotional literacy. Suggested uses include:

  • Use Emotion Thermometers at the beginning of each session as part of a check-in routine.
  • Help children put a name with their feelings by regularly completing this exercise at the end of sessions, after sharing a story (e.g. “How did you feel when that happened?”), or when they are visibly experiencing an emotion.
  • Teach empathy by exploring the emotions of others. Use this resource to explore how someone else might feel.

For another emotion face activity, check out Emotion Face Questions:

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1. Denham, S. A., Blair, K. A., DeMulder, E., Levitas, J., Sawyer, K., Auerbach–Major, S., & Queenan, P. (2003). Preschool emotional competence: Pathway to social competence? Child Development, 74(1), 238-256.

2. Pons, F., Harris, P. L., & Doudin, P. A. (2002). Teaching emotion understanding. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 17(3), 293.

3. Ulutaş, İ., & Ömeroğlu, E. (2007). The effects of an emotional intelligence education program on the emotional intelligence of children. Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal, 35(10), 1365-1372.

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