SPARKLERS / Managing emotions

First Day Feelings

When it's a first day back after a break, this activity provides and opportunity to kōrero about this and express how they're doing.
Connections with the NZ Curriculum and Mental Health Education Guide (learn more)

Learning outcomes

Tamariki recognise and identify a range of emotions.

Sharing where we're at

When it's time to return to school after a break, most tamariki will be sweet-as to be at school, and others may be finding this a bit worrying.

It is important to ‘hold a compassionate space’ for tamariki to be open and share how they’re doing. - you might do this at circle time or create a quiet moment. Acknowledging the different emotions you’re observing will help normalise them and keep things in perspective.


You may like to say:

  • Wow, what a change coming back after a long break. And I can see that everyone is feeling lots of different things about today.
  • I’m feeling ….. (Share your experience, tamariki love knowing that you’re feeling things too!)
  • I can see that some people are feeling excited, a bit worried, a bit nervous, maybe a little bit all over the place. Some people I can see feel quite relaxed, some feel curious. Am I right? There’s lots of new processes and things around

Hei mahi - What to do

You may want to use a visual with this!

Ask tamariki to look through the emotions, and – if they want to – name how they’re feeling. Reiterate that their feelings are normal, and that it's ok to feel a range of different things. They can feel more than one at any time – that’s normal too. Acknowledging that their emotions will change, sometimes quickly and sometimes throughout the day, will be another good thing to kōrero about.

Encouraging kindness and empathy

If a child becomes upset, let them know this is very normal too! See if they can name the emotion or support them to name the emotion and let them know that others will be feeling like this too. Sometimes asking the rest of the group can help. Who else feels a bit like this – a show of hands, or even a few head nods, can be reassuring.

Kōrero about:

  • How can we look after each other today?
  • What could you do to spread kindness today?

An end-of-day recap

Return to this at the end of the day and see if anyone spotted someone else sharing kindness and looking after others.

Kōrero may include:

  • This morning we looked at how we were feeling on our first day back, and I can see that your feelings and emotions may have changed throughout the day.
  • Who has felt lots of different emotions today?
  • Can anyone name how they are feeling now?

Repeat the activity with the emotion options – and if they’re feeling the same that’s totally fine. Ask tamariki what they’re noticing about their feelings. All this will be a great gauge for you moving forward.

What else?

What if tamariki seem particularly worried?

  • These kids may have LOTS of questions. Answer them pretty matter-of-factly and in very ‘general’ terms. You don’t have to get the answers exactly right here.
  • Focus on the things we can do to keep ourselves healthy and look after each other.
  • Kōrero about things we can do to help with our worries and practice these - Tummy Breathing, Hikitia te Hā and perhaps a quiet space for tamariki to read or take some calm time. Worries 101 may be a good option too.
  • Keep the reassurance low key — over-reassuring can make us think we need to be worrying more than we are!
  • If you have a quiet moment, perhaps let them know that others may be feeling the same way and ask how they might support them - this is all about externalising their thinking - outside of themselves. Try to introduce one of their ideas to help support everyone.
  • Acknowledge their feelings, and praise them for their braveness - they’re in the room, participating as they can, even though they have big worries - go them!

With special thanks...

This activity has been created with the kind help of James Devereaux, Dean of Year 9 at Liston School. Thanks James!

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