Feelings on a Stick: Emotional Intelligence and Preschoolers

Preschoolers often get overwhelmed by their feelings.  They are not yet emotionally self-aware, nor have they learned how to fully regulate their emotions.  This means that preschoolers often can’t pinpoint what makes them upset, and they may have a difficult time expressing their overwhelming feelings appropriately.  

Emotional intelligence refers to this ability to recognize your feelings, and how you react to them.  

Why is emotional intelligence important for preschoolers?  Aside from contributing to a healthy emotional well-being, emotional intelligence is conducive to successful school experiences. 

“Children with higher emotional intelligence are better able to pay attention, are more engaged in school, have more positive relationships, and are more empathic” (Tominey, O’Bryon, Rivers, & Shapses, 2017)

Today, we explored emotional self-awareness through an activity called Feelings on a Stick. Though a myriad of feelings can be explored with this activity, we began by investigating the emotions “happy” and “sad.”

To make our happy and sad feelings sticks, we cut out four large circles on cardstock and made faces for them (two faces for each child).  We had some googly eyes, so we attached those along with either a smile or a frown.  

We then attached the popsicle stick to back of the face. I recommend using tape for this step, as the glue just slides right off.

After our faces were done, we were ready to examine happy and sad feelings!

I read the following short passages aloud, while my children acted the scenes out with toys:

  1. Rapunzel is playing with her new baby doll. She is holding the baby and feeding her a bottle.   She rocks the baby doll to sleep.  
  2. Lightning McQueen want to race with his friend Cruz Ramirez.  He fills up with oil and drives over to Cruz’s garage to ask her to race.  She says she can’t race today.
  3. Belle and Tiana are playing together at the playground. They are having lots of fun going down the slide together.  Belle’s dad says it is time for dinner and Belle has to leave.  
  4. Jackson Storm is decorating cookies with icing and sprinkles.  He offers some of his cookies to his family and they eat them together at the table. 
  5. Ariel is building a tall castle out of blocks.  She works very hard on it, and it is very tall.  Merida comes over and knocks the castle down.  

After each passage, I prompted them to hold up either a happy or a sad face.  

Happy faces!

Passages one and four got the happy face.  I also asked them to show me what their happy faces looked like and what activities they do that gives them a happy face.  

Sad faces.

Passages two, three, and five got the sad face.  My son had some trouble with the sad face, as he wanted all the characters to be happy….all. the. time. We discussed how it is okay to be sad sometimes, and even when you are sad it is possible to be happy again in the future.  He insisted that on passage 5 Ariel and Merida work together to rebuild the castle.  This prompted us to reenact all the scenarios again, so that even if they were sad, the characters had a chance to be happy in the future. 

We used Disney princesses and Disney Cars characters to illustrate our stories.  Feel free to use the passages with whatever characters your child is drawn to!  Feelings on a Stick is a simple activity that can help promote your preschooler’s emotional intelligence, while concurrently boosting their emotional and school successes. 

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