SPARKLERS / Managing emotions

Emotions In Colour

This activity uses colours to help tamariki name emotions. Being able to recognise and name emotions is the biggest step towards successfully regulating them.
Connections with the NZ Curriculum and Mental Health Education Guide (learn more)

Learning outcomes

Tamariki recognise and name and range of emotions.

Tāngia ēnei tohutohu – Print me

Double check your printer settings for the right sized paper - especially that tricky A3!

For this activity you'll need to split your class into groups of around 4 or 5. Each group will need one each of the following:

Large colour wheel 1/4s – print two sets on A3 (8 sheets total)
Small circles with emotions – print two sets on A4 (8 sheets)
Circle hands: Print one A4 sheet, ideally on card

He aha ai? – Why we love it

In order to regulate emotions, tamariki must learn to recognise them and have the language to describe them. Choosing to use verbal words, colours and perhaps NZ sign language as a way to talk about emotions gives children a wide vocabulary to do so.


Lead into this activity by showing our favourite movie Inside Out 2015 (Pixar) - it can be downloaded from iTunes for $24.99. Here's the trailer that will make you laugh! And here's the trailer where you can really see how great this movie is for tamariki to learn about their emotions!

Say: Emotions are often linked to colours. Think about the movie Inside Out. What were the colours of the characters?

  • Anger – Red
  • Sadness – Blue
  • Joy – Green
  • Fear – Purple
  • Disgust – Green again!

In fact, did you know there was some real psychological research behind the movie Inside Out? What’s great about the movie is it demonstrates that no emotion is a ‘bad’ emotion. While in the beginning, Joy wanted only joyful memories and thought those were most important, by the end she recognises that it’s important to “feel what needs feeling.” Emotions aren’t bad, they’re emotions, that’s all — and it’s good to experience a full and wide range of them.

What’s important too is talking about our emotions and having as many ways to do this as possible. Today we’ll concentrate on the names of emotions and the colours we could associate with them. Why do you think this is important?

  • Talking about emotions helps us manage them
  • Sometimes it’s embarrassing so having a colour to point to or say can really help
  • The colour can act as a code in class or between teacher and tamariki
  • Sometimes we don’t know how we’re feeling, but we know we’re feeling something and having a colour to describe this can be useful rather than having to find the exact, right word.

Hei mahi - What to do

Bring out the A3 colour wheel worksheets, and hold them up as you talk about each of the colours.

Blue - Kahurangi

So in Inside Out, blue was sad. Blue is associated with low mood and low energy. Can you tell me the names of some emotions we might relate to the colour blue? - Depressed, Sad, Tired

Green - Kākāriki

Joy has a green dress in Inside Out, but green is usually associated with feeling okay and calm. What other emotions can you think of that might be green? - Happy, Focussed, Ready to learn

Yellow - Kōwhai

Yellow is normally associated with ‘heightened’ emotions, so we’re feeling something and we’re really aware of it, but we’re staying in control (mostly!).

What emotions might be associated with yellow? - Worried, Frustrated, Wriggly

Red Whero

Red is associated with ‘big’ emotions and sometimes the emotion can feel like it can take control of us.

What emotions might be associated with red? - Anger, Rage, Frustration

Split the class into small groups and give them a set of the printed worksheets and one quarter of the colourwheel each - 4 groups will create one emotion colour-wheel, 8 groups will create two emotion colour-wheels.

Explain they’re each going to make a quarter of Emotional Colour Wheel, adding the appropriate emotions to each section of the wheel.

They will need to:

  • Colour or paint their quarter.
  • Choose the colour they think best applies to each emotions. Add colour to those they're confident about, and a star to any they're unsure of so they can discuss them with their broader 'team'.
  • Add definitions for each of the emotions they'll be using inside of their quarter of colour
  • And, cut everything out.

Once groups have completed the above, tape the quarters together to create the colour-wheel.

Suggest each group share the emotions they chose to add to their colour. Build a kōrero around any differences of opinions, and which emotions were challenging to choose a colour for.

Remind tamariki that many emotions can ‘travel’ across two colours, for example excitement may be yellow (mild excitement) or red (near uncontrollable excitement!).

Generally (and for your eyes only!), we’d expect the colours associated with each emotion to be similar to:

  • BLUE - Depressed, Sad, Ngenge, Bored, Whakamā, Disappointed (can be to RED), Upset, Rejected, Devastated (can be RED too), Apprehensive
  • GREEN - Happy, Focussed, Attentive, Ka pai, Calm, Satisfied, Curious, Friendly, Thoughtful, Sympathetic
  • YELLOW - Energised, Restless, Worried, Excited, Surprised, Fearful, Embarrassed (can be RED too), Uncomfortable, Hohā, Spiteful (can be RED too), Love (can be RED too)
  • RED - Angry, Enraged, Infuriated, Jealous, Disgusted, Anxious, Humiliated, Shocked, Overjoyed, Shame (can be BLUE too)

We recommend displaying the colour-wheels immediately, and adding an arrow ‘hand’ (printed on card from the worksheet) to each. Secure this with a pin so it can spin like a clock.

Reiterate that emotions can be stated as colours, for example "I was in a blue mood this morning but I'm feeling pretty green and ka pai now."

Explain that you might check in with how people are feeling using the colour wheel and if it’s too hard to talk (because sometimes it is) tamariki are welcome to let you know how they’re feeling, using the circle hand.

What now

We've created this Emotions in Colour poster that might help in the classroom with identifying emotions as colours. We often refer to this inside of our e-newsletters with new ways to use it, so if you're not signed up for this, come join in here!

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

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