Blissful Kids: Stories and Games for Wellbeing – A Guide to Nurturing Resilience, Emotional Intelligence, and Well-being through Innovative Concepts and Playful Learning
Table of contents
- The Science of Emotional Intelligence in Children 13
- The Role of Play in Learning and Development 14
- The Importance of Early Intervention and Preventive Measures 14
- Nurturing Essential Components for Children’s Well-being Through Play and Stories 15
About the author – What people say about Chris’ work
“I love what you have done! You create valuable tools for parents and teachers to support mindfulness and increase the quality of life for young learners.”
– Jamie Jantz M.Ed., Education Specialist, Special Education Teacher
“You make mindfulness fun! I really like the short, to the point activities in attention.” – Jana York
“I’m so very grateful for the way you make mindfulness accessible. You simplify it so that anyone can start! Go you Chris!!!!”
– Adrienne Ansley
“As a mindfulness teacher I love the content and your simple, creative ideas. Thanks for sharing of yourself.”
– Meeghan Norwitz, Mindfulness Teacher
It’s really important to teach children how the brain works and we think you nailed it with the Brain Team! Using the characters as parts of the brain makes it much easier for them to understand, even the smallest ones. It’s empowering for them! We tell them that Amy represents the amygdala, Tex the prefrontal cortex and Hippo the hippocampus. We tell them how they work well together when they are OK, and then we tell them how they don’t work together when we are stressed. We found that the more playful, the more fun, and that it helps children understand better. The story reminds children that reactivity comes from the brain and that the brain can be helped to become less reactive. This is a memorable way for children to learn.
– Andréa och Hélade Cappai, Mindful Academy, Brazil
Today I used a breathing game with my group of 4-5 year olds. They all wanted to try it, and I was able to use it with a child who had a tough day. I asked him how he felt afterwards and he said ‘much better’. It also helped me feel more relaxed and focused when I did it with the kids. Even after just one day it has helped a lot! I look forward to making it a habit to practice mindful breathing with them, and I can’t wait to share these with others!
– Diana K., Early childhood educator
Teaching guardians and youth/children about the brain’s relationship to trauma and resulting behaviours can be frustrating and confusing…. By creating his “brain team”, Chris at Blissful Kids has come up with a way to engage a wide range of age groups in discussions about the brain. I am so grateful to have found this creative and fun way to talk about the brain with young people/children and carers to help them understand how each ‘character’ helps to protect the young person/child from ‘perceived and real threats’. When it comes to explaining concepts to children and young people, you can never go wrong with superheroes, so I look forward to introducing the ‘brain team’ of Amy, Tex and Hippo to all the people I work with.
– Amanda M. / Cassandra Williams, Support Worker for Foster Families
One of my young students, who was already naturally anxious, became deeply upset during an upcoming fire drill. To address her fears, we had a circle time. While we were delving into the student’s feelings, another student insightfully pointed out that Amy from the Brain Team had just triggered a false alarm in her head. The conversation focussed on understanding ‘Amy’s’ fear and remembering times when they had felt fear themselves, but how everything worked out. After the exercise, the girl said that it was not as scary as she had expected.
The brain team really saved the day by providing a concrete way for children to deal with and understand their emotions. The depth with which these characters speak to the children is remarkable.
– Ms Meghan, Kindergarten Prep teaching team, Early childhood educator
The breathing stories and games have been a great resource for my second grade classroom. We have been working a lot on self-regulation this school year. My students really appreciate having tools that they can use to help them calm down that are colourful, fun and easy to use. Thank you for creating the breathing stories and games!
– Laura W., Teacher
I was already pretty well versed in mindfulness and conscious breathing, but I love having specific child-orientated activities to make it more accessible to a younger audience.
– Amanda Mercer, Licensed Professional Counsellor
Chris, thank you for developing such a great programme. Your ideas and techniques are so easy to use and remember, and bring so much joy and happiness to the day. I plan to use the programme both at school and with my family. I hope I can grow as a person by recognising joy and happiness in the little things.
– Toni J., Teacher and mum
Using the games has helped my son learn to breathe and calm down when he is anxious. I think they are great.”
– Jenny S., Mum
Thank you! One of my 4-year-old twins already does calming breathing on his own when he gets upset. It’s amazing to see! I can’t help but think about what a powerful long-term impact these skills can have on their emotional development and mental health.
Becky L., Mother
A letter to you
I’m Chris Bergström. Over the past 10 years, I’ve been diving deep into creating child wellbeing materials and tools for teachers and parents. It’s been quite a journey! My work has reached all corners of the globe, with over 70,000 wellbeing products delivered and four books that somehow made it to Amazon bestsellers in child psychology. I also run this blog ( blissfulkids.com ), and I’m humbled to say it’s caught the attention of hundreds of thousands of readers—mostly educators, psychologists, and parents like you and me.
The last 10 years I’ve focused on making wellbeing interventions as easy as possible to both teach and learn. And in fact, people say I’m making psychological interventions fun and easy. The methods you’ll find in this book are used by amazing teachers and parents from Brazil, to the UK, to Australia to Texas.
But let me share a little backstory. When my son was just two, I started teaching him about how our brains work, especially when we’re stressed. It was pretty cool (and honestly, a bit funny) hearing him talk about the prefrontal cortex and amygdala, when he saw other children having stress reactions, while we were hanging out at the park. By three, he was already getting the hang of understanding his emotions and using deep breaths to calm down. Seeing how much it helped him, I felt compelled to share what I’d learned with others, which led to the blog and all the resources I’ve created.
A big part of my drive comes from a personal chapter in my life. We were adopting a child with special needs, and I immersed myself in studying neurology and child psychology to better support and understand our child-to-be. It’s been a mix of challenges and heartwarming moments, but every bit of it has fueled my passion to help other kids and families.
So, that’s a bit about me. I’m just a dad, trying to make a difference, one child at a time.
But this book is not about me it’s about you—and it’s time to give thanks to you!
It’s time to celebrate YOU, in five easy steps :-)
- Stand or sit up straight, ensuring you’re in a comfortable position.
- Lift up your right arm, bending it at the elbow.
- Slowly swing your right hand towards your left shoulder.
- Gently pat yourself on the left shoulder.
- Smile and say, “Well done, me!”
Optional: Repeat with the left arm for a double pat of self-appreciation!
( Here’s me doing a goofy fist pump for you )
And here’s why:
Seriously, the fact that you are reading this book right now and planning to practice with your kids is reason enough to celebrate. You are giving your kids and yourself a beautiful gift. And by practicing with the kids, you are contributing to a better world!
You help the kids. You help yourself. And you help build a brighter future … for the kids and for our planet.
I’m serious ( even if I look intentionally silly in the photo ). I do believe everything starts with our kids. They truly are the future.
I wish you many moments of calm, love and happiness!
With gratitude and love,
I’m so excited to share something very close to my heart with all of you. We’re on a beautiful journey to bring a sprinkle of understanding and balance to the lives of our little ones.
In the early stages of life, as children begin to explore the world around them, they are also navigating the intricate world within them. Emotional intelligence, self-regulation, and resilience are foundational pillars that shape a child’s ability to understand, express, and manage their emotions.
Just like we teach them to brush their teeth to keep those pearly whites shining, we should also be showing them how to keep their inner world shining bright too—it’s equally vital to instill mental health habits that nurture their mental and emotional well-being.
Imagine the simplicity of teaching a child to tie their shoelaces with the “around the tree and down the bunny hole” story. In the same playful and engaging manner, we can introduce them to the complexities of their emotions and brain functions. Let’s dive into emotions and the brain in the same fun way!
Why this book rocks
This book is a treasure trove of innovative and playful learning concepts designed specifically for educators, parents, and caregivers. Imagine having a fun toolbox filled with playful games and stories that help kiddos understand their feelings and how their brain works. Through engaging stories, games, and activities, we provide tools that not only educate but also empower children to navigate their emotional landscape on their own. That’s what this book is all about! It’s a colorful journey for parents, caregivers, and educators to help children navigate their emotions and grow resilient. Once children grasp these concepts, they become like shorthand. It’s easy to remind them of the tools and stories with just a few words or cues.
Never in the history of calming down has a kid ever calmed down by being told to calm down? Yep, we’ve all been there, right? But guess what? This book might just be the game-changer we’ve all been waiting for. Dive into these pages, and you’ll find some super cool tools and tricks that actually help kiddos understand their feelings and, believe it or not, calm down for real! So, while that meme gave us a good chuckle, we’re about to turn the tables. Ready to join the fun and discover a fresh way to help our little ones navigate their big emotions? Let’s go!
Three simple tools
I’m all about keeping things simple, playful, and super practical. Kids love stories, right? So, we use fun tales and characters that make learning about emotions and the brain a delightful adventure. We introduce children to their brain’s functions and emotions through playful characters and narratives, making complex ideas accessible and engaging.
- First up, we have the Feelings Traffic Lights. It’s a vibrant and intuitive way for children to categorize and understand their emotions.
- As they become familiar with recognizing their feelings, we introduce the Brain Team – a set of characters representing different parts of the brain. This playful team helps children grasp how their brains and bodies respond to various emotions and stressors, and especially the fight or flight reflex.
- Then, we jump into some super fun Sensory Games and Breathing Games. These activities help relax the body and develop control during stress reactions, offering children tactile tools to self-regulate. My son learned mindful deep breathing at the age of 1 and I get frequent reports of educators and parents who use my methods to teach 2-3-4 year children with success.
- And last but not least, we learn about the Feel-Good Battery. It’s all about teaching kids that just like toys, phones and tablets need recharging, sometimes we do too! It’s a fun way to learn strategies for building resilience and self-care.
Teaching kids about their inner workings is just like any other life skill. It’s all about making it fun, relatable, and a part of their everyday adventures. Dive in, and let’s make understanding emotions a joyous journey for our childrens. High-fives all around!
Thank you for empowering kids! 🌟🌈🎈
How to Use This Book
Before we dive deep into the world of emotions, feelings, and playful learning, let’s talk about how to make the most of this material.
- Take It Step by Step: While it might be tempting to jump around, we recommend starting from the beginning. Each chapter builds on the previous one, creating a seamless journey of understanding.
- Reflect & Rehearse: After each chapter, take a moment to reflect on what you’ve learned. Dive into the activities yourself, and as you do, you’ll likely recall moments from your own life that align with the concepts. By connecting with these personal experiences, you’ll be equipped with real-life stories to share with the kids, making the lessons even more relatable and impactful. Remember, personal stories often resonate deeply, and they can be a powerful tool in teaching these concepts.
- Customize to Your Needs: Every child is unique. Feel free to adapt the stories, games, and activities to best suit the children you’re working with. The concepts are flexible and designed to fit a variety of needs and situations.
- Engage & Play: Dive into these concepts alongside your kids. Play the games together, share the stories, and immerse yourselves in the world of emotions and the brain. The key is to engage with them genuinely and joyfully. When you’re having fun and showing enthusiasm, it becomes contagious, making the learning experience memorable and enjoyable for the little ones!
- The Power of Co-Regulation: Children naturally look to adults as emotional compasses. By exemplifying calm and understanding, we offer them a guiding light through emotional turbulence. This not only aids immediate emotional challenges but also instills lifelong emotional skills. Remember, effective co-regulation starts with us, the adults. It’s our role to lead by example, ensuring children feel supported and understood.
- The Magic of Shorthand: Once children grasp these concepts, they become like shorthand. It’s easy to remind them of the tools and stories with just a few words or cues. But remember, while this shorthand becomes a powerful tool, kids might need a refresher every now and then. Continuity is key!
- Revisit: As children grow and mature, their understanding and capacity to grasp concepts expand. It’s a great idea to revisit these tools and stories periodically. As they age, you can delve deeper, introducing more scientific information about the brain and discussing more nuanced emotions. The beauty of these concepts is that they can evolve with the child, becoming richer and more detailed over time. So, as your kids grow, let the teachings of this book grow with them, offering deeper insights and understanding.
- Celebrate Small Wins: For example, every time a child recognizes an emotion, uses a strategy, or shares a feeling, it’s a win! Celebrate these moments. They’re building blocks to emotional well-being.
- Equip & Enhance: Dive deeper into the experience with some extra goodies! While the stories and activities in this book are super engaging on their own, adding some of our printables, videos, or even finger puppets can make the journey even more magical. Many educators and parents have crafted their own puppets inspired by our concepts, turning learning into a creative project. If DIY isn’t your thing, don’t worry! We’ve got printable versions and “noprep” videos available for purchase. These additional materials not only reinforce the concepts but also make the learning process interactive and visually appealing. Peek at our recommended resources section at the end of the book to explore more.
Ready to embark on this exciting journey? Let’s turn the page and dive into the foundation of well-being. Happy exploring! 🌈📘🚀
Chapter 1: The Foundation of Wellbeing
Welcome to the heart of our journey! Before we dive into the playful stories and games, it’s essential to understand the bedrock principles that form the foundation of our approach. This short chapter is all about the “why” behind what we do.
Children need a balanced set of cognitive, social and emotional skills to thrive in today’s complex world. These skills are essential for individual success, social functioning and mental health. Social and emotional skills are strong predictors of school performance and there is also a strong link between children’s social and emotional skills and their psychological well-being . Just as we teach children the importance of brushing their teeth to achieve long-term health benefits, we can teach awareness, emotional intelligence, optimism and concrete tools for well-being and self-care from a young age.
1. The Science of Emotional Intelligence in Children
Emotional Intelligence (EI), often coined as EQ (Emotional Quotient), is not just a buzzword in the realm of psychology; it’s a fundamental aspect of human development, especially in children. At its core, EI refers to the ability to recognize, understand, manage, and effectively express one’s own emotions, as well as to engage and navigate successfully with the emotions of others.
From the earliest days of a child’s life, they experience a whirlwind of emotions. These can range from basic feelings like happiness or sadness to more complex ones like jealousy or ambivalence. As children grow, their emotional world becomes richer but also more challenging. Recognizing and naming these emotions is the first step in EI. It’s akin to giving children a map of an unknown territory, helping them navigate their inner world.
Why It Matters for Kids:
For children, developing EI is like building a bridge between their feelings and the world around them. It aids in fostering positive relationships, enhancing communication, and navigating social challenges. A child with a well-developed EI can better handle conflicts, show empathy to peers, and adapt to changing situations. They’re also better equipped to handle stress, setbacks, and other challenges that come their way.
The Brain and EI:
The brain plays a pivotal role in emotional intelligence. The amygdala, often referred to as the emotional center of the brain, works in tandem with the prefrontal cortex, the area responsible for decision-making and regulation. In children, these areas are still developing, making childhood the prime time for EI cultivation. When children learn about their emotions and how to manage them, they’re essentially training these parts of their brain, much like how a muscle gets stronger with exercise.
Cultivating EI from a young age sets the foundation for future emotional health and resilience. Children with higher EI tend to have better academic performance  , stronger relationships, and fewer behavioral issues . They’re also better equipped to handle the emotional challenges of adolescence and adulthood.
In essence, Emotional Intelligence is not just about understanding emotions; it’s about harnessing them as a strength. For children, it’s a tool that empowers them to face the world with confidence, empathy, and resilience. And with tools like the Feelings Traffic Lights, we can make this journey both fun and educational for them.
2. The Role of Play in Learning and Development
“Play is the highest form of research” – Albert Einstein
Remember those days when a cardboard box could become a spaceship or a castle? Play is the language of children. It’s how they explore the world, understand complex concepts, and develop essential life skills. Through play, children not only learn about their surroundings but also about themselves.
Play and Brain Development:
Research has shown that play is not just about having fun; it has profound effects on the brain. As Sergio Pellis, a researcher at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, puts it, “The experience of play changes the connections of the neurons at the front end of your brain.” Without play, these neural connections don’t evolve as they should. Play is crucial in shaping the prefrontal cortex, the brain’s executive control center responsible for regulating emotions, making plans, and problem-solving. As Pellis aptly states, “Play is what prepares a young brain for life, love, and even schoolwork.” 
Each of our concepts, from the Feelings Traffic Lights to the Brain Team and the Feel-Good Battery, is designed to be playful and engaging. By integrating play into our methods, we make learning about emotions, the brain, and self-regulation not just informative but also delightful and memorable, making emotional intelligence learning a joyous adventure for kids.
3. The Importance of Early Intervention and Preventive Measures
Early childhood is a pivotal time, marked by the brain’s remarkable adaptability and sensitivity to experiences. Introducing tools for emotional intelligence and resilience during this phase can pave the way for lifelong well-being.
From their first moments, children are explorers, not just of the world around them, but also of their intricate emotional realms. These foundational years shape their emotional, cognitive, and social trajectories, underscoring the essential role of early intervention and preventive strategies in fostering balanced, resilient individuals.
Social and emotional competencies can differ based on age, gender, and socio-economic background. Schools play a vital role in championing this well-being, especially for those from disadvantaged backgrounds .
Globally, nearly 15% of children and adolescents experience mental disorders . Alarmingly, many of these challenges manifest early, with 50% of all mental disorders beginning before age 14 and 75% by age 24 . This data amplifies the urgency of early prevention.
Prevention is key. Just as we instill the habit of brushing teeth to ward off cavities, it’s imperative to arm children with tools for emotional well-being. Initiatives like deciphering emotions with the Feelings Traffic Lights, managing tough emotions via the “Brain Team” and our sensory games, or fortifying resilience with the Feel Good Battery, serve as preventive shields. These tools empower children with the prowess to confront challenges proactively, diminishing the likelihood of emotional and behavioral complications in their later years.
To sum it up, the early stages present a golden window to sculpt a child’s emotional and cognitive landscape. Through timely intervention and preventive actions, we can ensure our children are well-prepared for emotionally rich and rewarding lives.
4. Nurturing Essential Components for Children’s Well-being Through Play and Stories
In today’s fast-paced world, children often miss out on learning vital strategies for self-care, emotional well-being, and regulation. Our games and stories are designed to bridge this gap, focusing on nurturing the following essential components:
- Executive Function and Self-Regulation:
Central to a child’s cognitive growth is the development of executive function, encompassing skills like working memory, flexible thinking, and self-control. These abilities are pivotal for tasks such as making sound decisions, paying attention, and organizing thoughts. Self-regulation, an integral part of executive function, enables children to manage their emotions and behaviors aptly. The Brain Team, with Tex as a fun representation of executive function, introduces these concepts in an engaging manner. Tools like the Feelings Traffic Lights further empower children to recognize, categorize, and manage their emotions, bolstering their self-regulation capabilities.
- Mindfulness and Awareness:
Mindfulness, in essence, is about being present and fully attuned to the current moment. Through our approach, children are introduced to mindfulness primarily by recognizing and understanding their emotions. Recognizing these emotions is the first step; without this awareness, effective management becomes challenging. Our sensory games, especially those centered around breathing, offer children a tangible way to practice mindfulness by tuning into their senses. Furthermore, gratitude practices in our approach enhance mindfulness by teaching children to observe how their thoughts influence their feelings. This not only deepens their connection to their inner emotions but also fosters a greater understanding of their interactions with the world around them. Through these methods, children learn to respond with intention rather than merely reacting, cultivating a profound sense of self-awareness and connection.
- Emotional Intelligence (EI):
For children, EI is a bridge connecting their inner feelings to the external world, aiding in relationship-building, communication, and social navigation. The Feelings Traffic Lights (FTL) are instrumental in this development. They teach children to notice emotions at an early stage, categorizing them into green, yellow, and red. This early recognition allows children to manage their emotions before they escalate, preventing potential meltdowns or conflicts. However, when emotions do boil over, the Brain Team concept and the breathing games come into play, teaching children effective strategies to handle intense situations and regain their composure. By helping children identify, express, and manage their emotions, we lay the groundwork for enhanced self-awareness, empathy, and resilience. In essence, our approach ensures that children not only understand their emotions but also harness them as strengths, preparing them to face life’s challenges with confidence and empathy.
Optimism is more than just a positive outlook; it’s the resilience, hope, and confidence children need to face the challenges that lie ahead. The Feel Good Battery concept is pivotal in nurturing this optimism. Through practices like gratitude and kindness, which are integral components of the Feel Good Battery, children learn to focus on the positive aspects of their lives. This not only fosters a sense of contentment and happiness but also strengthens their resilience. By consistently charging their Feel Good Battery, children develop a proactive attitude, enabling them to approach challenges with optimism and determination.
Gratitude is more than just an act of saying “thanks”; it’s a powerful tool that combats the brain’s natural tendency towards the “negativity bias” and the overactivity of the “default mode network.” The negativity bias is our brain’s innate propensity to focus on negative events or threats. This bias was evolutionarily advantageous, helping our ancestors survive by being alert to potential dangers. However, in our modern world, this bias can lead to excessive worry and a skewed perception of reality, where negative thoughts dominate.
The default mode network (DMN) is a network in the brain that becomes active when our minds wander. While it plays a role in self-reflection and daydreaming, an overactive DMN can lead to rumination and a focus on negative self-related thoughts.
Gratitude practice offers a counterbalance. By consciously acknowledging and appreciating the positive aspects of life, children can rewire their brains to focus more on the good, reducing the impact of the negativity bias and regulating the activity of the DMN. This not only fosters contentment and happiness but also builds resilience against stress and adversity. The Feel Good Battery concept emphasizes the transformative power of gratitude, guiding children to harness its benefits for emotional strength and well-being.
Beyond being a mere moral virtue, kindness serves as a powerful tool in fostering resilience in children. As highlighted by researchers like Barbara Fredrickson and Emma Seppala, acts of kindness generate positive emotions, which play a pivotal role in building resilience. These positive emotions not only uplift the individual but also create ripples, strengthening bonds and fostering a sense of community. By practicing kindness, children not only enhance their empathy and compassion but also form robust, supportive relationships with their peers. These relationships, underpinned by mutual respect and understanding, are foundational for overall well-being. Patty O’Grady, PhD, an expert in neuroscience, education, and emotional learning, emphasizes that “Kindness changes the brain by the experience of kindness. Children and adolescents do not learn kindness by only thinking about it and talking about it. Kindness is best learned by feeling it so that they can reproduce it”. In essence, kindness doesn’t just benefit the receiver; it enriches the giver, fortifying their emotional resilience and paving the way for a fulfilling, connected life [5&6].
The symbiotic relationship between kindness and gratitude forms a virtuous cycle: expressing kindness often evokes feelings of gratitude in both parties, and fostering gratitude naturally spurs more acts of kindness.
Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties and adapt positively to challenges. Each component we’ve discussed contributes to building this vital skill:
Executive function and self-regulation equip children with the mental tools to manage their reactions and make thoughtful decisions.
Mindfulness and awareness allow children to stay present, recognize their emotions, and choose appropriate responses.
Emotional intelligence ensures children understand and navigate their feelings, fostering inner strength.
Optimism, cultivated through gratitude and kindness, instills hope and a positive outlook, even in challenging situations.
Kindness not only strengthens interpersonal bonds but also reinforces the personal satisfaction and positive emotions that bolster resilience.
Gratitude shifts focus to the positive, providing a buffer against adversities.
By integrating these components through tools like the Feelings Traffic Lights, Brain Team, and Feel Good Battery, children are empowered to navigate life’s ups and downs with confidence and adaptability.
 Polanczyk GV, Salum GA, Sugaya LS, et al.. Annual research review: a meta-analysis of the worldwide prevalence of mental disorders in children and adolescents. J Child Psychol Psychiat. 2015;56:345–365.
 Kessler RC, Berglund P, Demler O, et al.. Lifetime prevalence and age-of-onset distributions of DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Arch Gen Psychiat. 2005;62:593–602.
 OECD (2021), Beyond Academic Learning: First Results from the Survey of Social and Emotional Skills, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/92a11084-en.
 Kamenetz, A. (2014). Scientists Say Child’s Play Helps Build A Better Brain. NPR Ed. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2014/08/06/336361277/scientists-say-childs-play-helps-build-a-better-brain.
 Fredrickson, B. L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist, 56(3), 218-226. Link
 Seppala, E. (2013). The Happiness Track: How to Apply the Science of Happiness to Accelerate Your Success. HarperOne. Link
 O’Grady, P. (2013). The Positive Psychology of Kindness. Psychology Today. Retrieved from [Psychology Today](https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/positive-psychology-in-the-classroom/201302/the-positive-psychology-kindness).
 MacCann C, Jiang Y, Brown LE, Double KS, Bucich M, Minbashian A (2020). “Emotional intelligence predicts academic performance: A meta-analysis”. Psychological Bulletin. 146 (2): 150–186. doi:10.1037/bul0000219. PMID 31829667. S2CID 209342554
 Mayer JD, Roberts RD, Barsade SG (2008). “Human abilities: emotional intelligence”. Annual Review of Psychology. 59: 507–36. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.59.103006.093646. PMID 17937602. S2CID 11801336. Archived from the original on 2015-12-22.
Chapter 2: Feelings Traffic Lights
A Father-Son Tale
When my son was just three years old, I embarked on a mission to help him navigate the intricate world of emotions. The Feelings Traffic Lights became our shared language, a bridge connecting his young mind to the vast realm of feelings.
We started simple. Three colors, each representing a distinct emotional state:
Green for when everything was calm and content.
Yellow for those moments of unease, confusion, or worry.
Red for intense feelings, the kind that could easily boil over if not addressed.
One day, as we were getting ready for the day, I noticed him fidgeting, a hint of worry clouding his eyes. “What color are you feeling right now?” I asked gently. He paused, his little brows furrowing in thought, before answering, “Yellow.” Just the act of recognizing and naming his emotion seemed to alleviate some of its weight. Together, we took a few deep breaths, talked about what was bothering him, and soon enough, his ‘yellow’ dimmed, replaced by a serene ‘green’.
But it wasn’t just about him. One morning, as the clock ticked away and we were running late, my patience wore thin. “Why aren’t you dressed yet?” I exclaimed, my voice sharper than intended. Seeing his startled expression, I took a deep breath and admitted, “Daddy’s feeling a bit orange right now.” We both chuckled at my mix-up, but it opened up a conversation. I explained that sometimes, even adults can feel overwhelmed, and it’s okay to talk about it.
By being open about my own emotions, I hoped to show him that feelings are a natural part of life. Whether it was mommy feeling ‘yellow’ because of a long day at work or daddy turning ‘red’ due to a spilled cup of tea, we used these moments as real-time lessons. It normalized emotions, making them less intimidating.
Over time, this simple system transformed our interactions. My son began to recognize when he was drifting towards ‘red’, and together, we’d find ways to steer back to ‘green’. By co-regulating, we not only avoided countless conflicts but also strengthened our bond. The Feelings Traffic Lights didn’t just teach my son about emotions; they taught us both the value of understanding, patience, and the power of a shared language.
The Feelings Traffic Lights is an innovative approach to help children understand and categorize their emotions. Just as traffic lights guide drivers on when to stop, go, or slow down, the Feelings Traffic Lights provide children with a visual and relatable framework to recognize and navigate their emotional states.
Green Light: Represents positive emotions such as happiness, calm, and contentment. It signifies that everything is okay, and one can proceed with their actions or thoughts. Being in the green light state not only benefits the individual but also places them in an optimal position to share their calm and happiness with others, fostering a positive environment around them. Furthermore, this state is the most conducive for learning, allowing for better absorption and understanding of new information.
Yellow Light: Symbolizes transitional emotions like caution, uncertainty, or mild discomfort. It’s a signal to slow down, reflect, and possibly prepare for a change in emotional state.
Red Light: Denotes intense emotions such as anger, sadness, or overwhelming excitement. It’s an indication to stop, take a moment, and address the emotion before proceeding.
The Feelings Traffic Lights method offers several advantages.
Benefits of the Feelings Traffic Lights:
- Simplified Emotional Understanding: The relatable visual emotion meter transforms the vast spectrum of emotions into an easy-to-grasp visual guide, making it simpler for children to comprehend and articulate their feelings.
- Accessible for All Ages: The visual and straightforward nature of the method ensures that even younger children can easily grasp and learn about their emotional states. For younger children, the three colors serve as a basic introduction to emotions. As children mature, specific emotions can be attached to each color, expanding the list in an age-appropriate manner, allowing for a deeper exploration of their emotional landscape.
- Encourages Open Communication: The clear categorization promotes open dialogue about emotions, enabling children to express themselves more freely and constructively.
- Empowers Proactive Emotional Regulation: By identifying the ‘color’ of their current emotion, children can proactively employ strategies to manage it, preventing potential emotional escalations. The emphasis is on recognizing and addressing milder emotions before they intensify, equipping children with tools for preemptive emotional management.
- Boosts Emotional Intelligence: The system aids children in categorizing, discussing, and understanding both their own and others’ emotions, laying the foundation for heightened empathy and awareness.
- Strengthens Adult-Child Bond: The shorthand provided by the Feelings Traffic Lights fosters intuitive emotional communication, deepening the connection between educators and children and cultivating a nurturing learning atmosphere.
- Cultivates Lifelong Emotional Habits: With consistent use, the Feelings Traffic Lights instill habits of emotional awareness and regulation, setting children on a path of emotional wellbeing from an early age.
- Interactive Emotional Learning: Through engaging games and activities, children are encouraged to pinpoint emotions and their triggers, fostering a deeper understanding and empathy.
Feelings Traffic Lights – Goals and Objectives
This chapter introduces the “Feelings Traffic Lights” model, a visual and intuitive tool designed to help children recognize, understand, and manage their emotions. By associating emotions with the familiar concept of traffic lights, children are empowered to navigate their emotional landscape with greater awareness and confidence.
- Emotional Education: Introduce children to a range of emotions, emphasizing that every feeling is natural and valid.
- Categorization Skills: Equip children with the ability to classify their emotions under the “Feelings Traffic Lights” model, fostering clarity and understanding.
- Emotional Preparedness: Help children anticipate and prepare for challenging situations by recognizing emotional triggers.
- Mindfulness and Executive Functioning: Encourage children to be present with their emotions, using the traffic lights as a tool to engage their executive function and mindfulness practices.
By the End of this Module, Children Will:
- Emotional Recognition: Have a clear understanding of major emotions and the ability to identify them in themselves and others.
- Trigger Identification: Be more aware of situations or events that might trigger specific emotions, allowing for proactive emotional management.
- Emotional State Awareness: Regularly use the “Feelings Traffic Lights” technique to gauge their emotional state: red (stop and reflect), yellow (pause and assess), and green (go and engage).
- Action-Based Responses: Develop strategies to respond appropriately to their emotional state, ensuring they act rather than react impulsively.
- Foundation for Self-Regulation: Acquire a foundational method to activate their executive function, setting the stage for advanced self-regulation techniques in subsequent chapters ( such as the breathing games ).
Tips for Implementing the Feelings Traffic Lights Exercises
- **Commitment to the 10-Day Challenge:** While it’s optional to undertake the 10-day challenge, it’s strongly recommended. Engaging in 10 consecutive days of feelings check-ins can solidify the teachings and cultivate a habitual mindfulness of emotions. If you decide to bypass the challenge, you can still award the diploma after a few lessons. However, completing the challenge offers a more immersive experience.
- **Consistency is Key:** Even after the challenge concludes, continue the practice of daily check-ins. The routine becomes enjoyable, and many will find it a valuable tool for emotional self-awareness and wish to maintain it.
- **Celebrate Achievements:** Plan a special celebration upon completing the chosen activities. Whether it’s a classroom picnic where children can bring treats or an outdoor excursion to a park, make it memorable. Celebrating not only marks the end of the module but also reinforces the lessons learned. It’s a moment to acknowledge the efforts and progress made by each child, fostering a sense of accomplishment and setting a positive tone for future learning endeavors.
- **Evaluate and Reflect:** As the module concludes and you prepare to distribute diplomas, take a moment to engage with the children. Ask them reflective questions about their experiences, feelings, and what they’ve learned. Jot down mental or written notes to assess the effectiveness of the training. Observing and acknowledging the children’s progress can be a motivating factor, reinforcing the value of the teachings and the growth achieved.
Remember, the Feelings Traffic Lights system is more than just a set of exercises; it’s a journey towards emotional understanding and self-regulation. By following these tips, you can ensure a more enriching and impactful experience for the children.
The short cut
Before we delve into the hands-on activities and games, let’s touch on the comprehensive package designed to enhance this learning journey. While the activities listed below can certainly be executed independently, for those seeking a more streamlined and enriched experience, we’ve curated a special package. This all-inclusive set comes with printables, detailed cheat sheets for each lesson, and no-prep videos tailored for kids. These videos elucidate the core concepts, narrate engaging stories, and walk through the games, ensuring a seamless and captivating learning process for the Feelings Traffic Lights.
**Here’s what the package entails:**
– **Ease of Use:** Kickstart your journey by watching the video chapters, a brief 15-minute investment. Follow it up by printing the necessary materials, each accompanied by a cheat sheet with step-by-step instructions.
– **Structured Learning:** The printables are systematically organized under each item, and for added convenience, they’re also compiled in the appendix.
– **Interactive Learning:** Engage children by watching the videos together. Facilitate discussions and carry out the associated exercises using the cheat sheet. The process is as easy as pie! Yum!
– **What’s Inside the Module 1 (Chapter 1 online materials):**
– Three succinct lessons, each wrapping up in under 15 minutes.
– Feelings cards … and …
– An optional 10-day challenge to further solidify the learnings.
– A celebratory diploma to acknowledge the children’s achievements.
– Thoughtful questions to gauge the effectiveness of the training for both educators and children.
Practical Applications and Games
Implementing the Feelings Traffic Lights concept can be both fun and educational. Here are some engaging activities and discussions to reinforce the concept. Pick at least three activities to do, the first three are my go to activities. Here’s a short description of each, and you will find a longer description further below the list.
- Emotion Sorting: Provide children with a list of emotions (images of different emotions) and ask them to categorize them under the appropriate traffic light color. This activity reinforces the concept and allows for discussions on why certain emotions were placed in specific categories.
You can purchase get a set of printable emotions from our website: blissfulkids.com. Or you can draw your own or cut images of cartoons or magazines.
- Daily Check-ins: At the start or end of each day, encourage children to reflect on their predominant emotion of the day and associate it with a traffic light color. This routine fosters emotional self-awareness and reflection.
& 13. **Ten-Day Feelings Traffic Lights Challenge**
**Objective:** To cultivate a daily habit of emotional awareness and self-reflection using the Feelings Traffic Lights model.
- Role-playing: Create scenarios where children can act out different emotions, and the rest of the group identifies the traffic light color associated with that emotion. This activity is not only fun but also enhances empathy as children put themselves in others’ shoes.
- Crafting Traffic Lights: Allow children to create their own traffic light crafts using colored papers, markers, and other craft materials. They can then use these crafts as visual reminders to check in on their emotions throughout the day.
- Emotion Storytelling: Ask children to come up with a short story or scenario for each traffic light color. For instance, they could describe a situation that made them feel “green,” another that made them feel “yellow,” and one that made them feel “red.” This encourages creative thinking and deeper understanding of their own emotional triggers.
- Traffic Light Journals: Provide children with journals where they can draw or write about their emotions daily, associating them with the traffic light colors. Over time, they can look back and see patterns or triggers, helping them better understand and manage their emotions.
- Emotion Charades: Similar to role-playing, but in this game, children act out an emotion without using words, and the others guess the emotion and its associated traffic light color.
- Traffic Light Breathing: Teach children different breathing techniques associated with each color. For example, deep belly breathing for green (calm), rhythmic breathing for yellow (alert but not alarmed), and short, quick breaths for red (heightened state). This not only helps them recognize their emotional state but also equips them with tools to manage it. Breathe in green … breathe our red.
- Traffic Light Scavenger Hunt: Create a scavenger hunt where children have to find items or situations around them that make them feel a certain way, associating them with the traffic light colors. For instance, finding something that makes them happy (green), something uncertain (yellow), or something they don’t like (red).
- Emotion Wheel: Create a large wheel with the three traffic light colors. In each section, children can add pictures, drawings, or words that represent emotions they associate with that color. This can be a group activity, and the wheel can be displayed in a common area for reference.
- Traffic Light Transitions: Use the traffic light concept during transitions, like moving from one activity to another or calming down after play. Play a game where you call out a color, and the children have to act out the emotion or do an activity associated with that color. For example, “green” could mean they sit calmly or “red” could mean they jump in place.
- Emotion Music Time: Play different types of music and ask children to decide which traffic light color the music represents. This helps them understand that emotions can be triggered by various stimuli, including sound.
- **Ten-Day Feelings Traffic Lights Challenge**
**Objective:** To cultivate a daily habit of emotional awareness and self-reflection using the Feelings Traffic Lights model.