Emotional Vocabulary

Emotional intelligence is an essential life skill that allows individuals to manage and express their emotions effectively. Children are not born with this skill, and they must learn it as they grow. One crucial aspect of emotional intelligence is having a robust emotional vocabulary, which refers to a broad range of words that describe different emotions. In this article, we will explore the importance of teaching children an emotional vocabulary and how the feelings wheel can aid in this process.

Teaching children an emotional vocabulary is essential because it helps them understand their emotions better. Children experience a wide range of emotions throughout the day, and if they do not know how to label them, it can be overwhelming and confusing. By teaching children emotional vocabulary, parents and educators help them identify and name their emotions accurately. This, in turn, empowers children to manage their emotions better and communicate more effectively with others.

Moreover, research has shown that children who can accurately label their emotions are better at regulating them (Denham, 2006). Emotional regulation refers to the ability to manage one’s emotions and respond appropriately to different situations. When children have a robust emotional vocabulary, they can identify their emotions, understand their triggers, and learn how to respond effectively. This is crucial for their mental health and overall well-being.

One effective tool for teaching children emotional vocabulary is the feelings wheel. The feelings wheel is a visual aid that displays a range of emotions and their corresponding synonyms. The wheel is divided into different sections, and each section represents a primary emotion, such as joy, anger, sadness, or fear. Within each section, there are different shades of the primary emotion, and each shade represents a different intensity of the emotion. For example, the joy section may include shades such as content, happy, ecstatic, and peaceful.

The feelings wheel is an effective tool for teaching emotional vocabulary because it provides children with a visual representation of their emotions. It also helps children understand the nuances between different emotions and the different intensities within each emotion. The wheel can be a useful tool for parents and educators to discuss emotions with children and encourage them to express their feelings.

In conclusion, teaching children an emotional vocabulary is essential for their emotional well-being and overall development. Children who have a robust emotional vocabulary can identify and manage their emotions better, leading to better mental health and social skills. The feelings wheel is an effective tool that can aid in the process of teaching children emotional vocabulary, and parents and educators can use it to engage in conversations about emotions with children.


Denham, S. A. (2006). Social-emotional competence as support for school readiness: What is it and how do we assess it? Early Education and Development, 17(1), 57-89.

Plutchik, R. (2001). The nature of emotions. American scientist, 89(4), 344-350.