SPARKLERS / Managing emotions

Sliding Emotions

This activity helps tamariki learn to manage emotions using a playground slide as a visualisation tool.
Connections with the NZ Curriculum and Mental Health Education Guide (learn more)

Learning outcomes

Tamariki understand how emotions build and the strategies we can use to work through them.

Tāngia ēnei tohutohu – Print me

Each student will need a Sliding Emotions worksheet

He aha ai? – Why we love it

This activity uses a slide metaphor to help tamariki visualise the way emotions build and the strategies we can use to work through them.

Being able to recognise and name emotions is the biggest step towards successfully managing them.


Remind tamariki that all emotions are okay – even the big ones— and there are three things that can help us manage them.

Copy the playground slide from the worksheet onto the whiteboard and let tamariki know that emotions work like a slide - they go up, and come down. Ask students to think about the arrows in terms of their breath: an emotion comes in (take a deep breath in), and then goes out (breathe out). In fact, calming our breath, just like that, is one way to help come ‘down’ from an emotion.

Managing our emotions is also like coming down a slide because it’s about choosing to ‘let go’. All emotions – e.g. worry, happiness, sadness, excitement – follow this pattern. Point out that sometimes we spend a long time at the top not wanting to come down, or at number 4 on the ladder, but eventually we do choose to 'let go' and come down the slide. This is normal.

Give this example:

“So here I am going about my day, down at the bottom of the slide, feeling calm; let’s colour this emotion, green/kākāriki.”

  • Circle the “1” on your whiteboard with green
  • Write the heading: Calm
  • Add the sentence “Going about my day.”

How might I know I feel calm? What are some clues? - Relaxed body, no real facial expression, feel light and easy.“And I just need to put my lunchbox away and Kirsty, who’s in a hurry pushes me. I’m okay, but I’m a bit sad/surprised. So I’ve moved to ‘2’ and I’m blue (kahurangi).

  • Circle the “2” on your whiteboard drawing with blue
  • Write the heading: Sad / surprised.
  • Add the sentence “Kirsty pushed me.”

How might I know I’m feeling surprised or sad? I may have given Kirsty a surprised or dirty look, I might feel a bit deflated or on edge, maybe my shoulders slumped or I felt my facial expression change.“So, I say “hey” to Kirsty and she laughs and runs off. Now I’m annoyed! What kind of friend does that?!Where have I gone to? I’ve jumped to #4 and I’m yellow/kōwhai.

  • Circle the “4” on your whiteboard drawing with yellow
  • Write the heading: Annoyed.
  • Add the sentence “Kirsty ran off.”

Ask: What do you think? Why would Kirsty treat me like that?

  • If students escalate the emotions saying things like, “she doesn’t like or care about you,” carry on escalating the story to 5, rage and red (whero).
  • If students de-escalate the emotions saying things like: “Maybe it was an accident, or she was in a hurry and excited and didn’t mean to upset you,” then de-escalate by getting off the slide (letting go) and heading back to green (kākāriki).

Whichever option they choose, challenge them by applying the opposite to show that escalation and de-escalation often happens based on how we think about what happened. And this is something we can control! (Although it’s not always easy!) Remind tamariki that none of these emotions are ‘bad’ – they’re just emotions and we all feel them at some points – and we shouldn’t avoid them. The thing to be careful about is how our emotions can affect our behaviour.

If Kirsty pushes us and we become really angry, how might this affect our behaviour?

  • We might be rude or mean to other people – this may even include our family when we get home
  • We might break something purposefully
  • We might not really think (or care) about consequences.

But we don’t stay like this forever – thank goodness!

Hei mahi - What to do

We can all think about times when we’ve escalated an emotion and behaved in a way we’re not happy about. Even something we might think is a great emotion, like excitement can make us behave in ways we are embarrassed about afterwards. It’s not always anger. It could be fear or worry.

Give each student a worksheet and say that for now we’re going to focus on just the left hand side of the worksheet, which is the emotion building or escalating.

Ask students to imagine a situation where they might move up the the slide, all the way to five. Encourage them to be creative! Ask them to:

  • write the emotions and descriptions on their worksheets
  • colour the numbers to match their mood
  • add arrows to show the emotion building.

Regroup and invite a few students to share their stories. Now say we’re going to focus on the things that help us manage the emotion, or come down the slide. What can we do to help a big emotion pass?

There are lots of possible answers, including:

  • tummy breathing, walking away and finding a quiet spot, talking to someone, thinking positive thoughts, a cuddle or pat on the back, drinking water, using positive self talk.

Write some answers on the board, then ask tamariki to complete the right side of their worksheets, choosing an action (or two) they might use to come down the slide.

To extend this activity, you may like to head off to the playground or park and ask tamariki to climb the slide imagining they're escalating an emotion, then at the top choosing to 'let go' and come back down. There's some great kōrero you could have about what this was like.

What next?

Some other fun ways to explore emotions:

  • We recommend doing some reading around emotions, especially worry. Check out our Bestest Books and Vids for Kids.
  • Or try watching an expressive video (like Charlie Chapman or Mr Bean), and pause it along the way, seeing if tamariki can name the emotions that come up. Ask if they can predict what’s coming up based on the emotions they can 'see' and what’s happening.

Head to the managing emotions activities to find other ways to keep talking about emotions with your tamariki.

Sparklers at Home

If you think it may be useful for whānau to give Sliding Emotions a go, simply copy and paste the following 'blurb' into an email or your home-learning programme as an introduction.

In the classroom we've been looking into some strategies we can use to manage big emotions such anger, worry, frustration and excitement. We've been using a 'slide' to think about how emotions escalate, and how we can 'let them go' like when we slide down a slide.

Sparklers at Home has the same activity, Sliding Emotions, we've been trying in the classroom, as an activity ready for home use. It would be great if you could give it a try with your child by heading to the local playground together (to the slide) or if you have a slide at home. They'll be familiar with the activity, so it will be exciting for them to take you through it!

Looking after you

Foster the hauora of your kaiako and team

Learn more