Emotional Building Blocks

Learning Areas:

  • Engineering
  • Movement


What is this activity?

ECSEL Standards

What skills are being enhanced? What knowledge is gained?


What do you need to prepare for this activity?

Group of infants. Five mixed race baby boy toddlers having fun together sitting on the floor. Flat style vector illustration isolated on white background.


Step by step guide

ECSEL Prompts

What questions can you ask to promote ECSEL thinking and discussions?

Extended Learning

How can you extend children’s thinking?


Support children in constructing using colorful, emotional building blocks!

ECSEL Standards & Learning Goals

What skills are being enhanced & what knowledge is being gained through this activity?

Emotional Identification

Teachers will support children in beginning to recognize and identify the four basic emotions (happy, sad, angry, and scared) by verbalizing characteristics of each facial expression.

Emotional Understanding

Teachers will support children in beginning to understand the differences between the four basic emotions by discussing facial expressions and simple causes. Teachers will help children’s emerging understanding that we have many different emotions.

Problem Solving

Children will use their problem-solving skills to build soft-blocks into towers and connect the emotions faces to their own feelings.

Empathy & Prosocial Skills

Children will work collaboratively to build using colorful soft blocks with emotion faces taped to them.

Cause & Effect

Teachers will support children in learning simple causes for the four basic emotions related to building activities.

CASEL Standards

Self-Awareness, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills, Responsible Decision Making


  • Colorful soft blocks
  • Printed images of babies experiencing each of the four basic emotions (enough for one image to be taped to each block)
  • Masking tape
  • Classroom wall-mounted mirror (if applicable to your classroom set-up) or a hand-held mirror
  • Tape printed emotions faces to age-appropriate colored soft blocks 
  • Set up play area in front of your classroom wall-mounted mirror (if applicable)
  • Support children in building with the colored soft blocks while verbalizing emotions used
  • If in front of a mirror, model each facial expression used by babies on the blocks and encourage babies to try to make the facial expressions by mirroring your own


  1. Prepare for this activity by printing images of babies expressing each of the four basic emotions. Ensure that you have enough printed images to tape one to each of the soft blocks used in this activity. 
  2. Tape one printed image to each colorful soft block. Assemble the emotional blocks in front of your classroom wall-mounted mirror (if applicable). If you do not have a wall-mounted mirror, assemble blocks in an open play area and have a hand-mirror accessible for the activity. 
  3. Guide children to the play area. Support and encourage them in building using the emotional blocks. Model what stacking the blocks in different ways looks like.
  4. As children explore the soft blocks, identify the emotion shown on each block by name. Label each color of the blocks and encourage children to try stacking just the red blocks, just the blue blocks, etc. Count how many blocks are in each tower built.
  5. If engaging in this activity in front of your classroom’s wall-mounted mirror, guide children to try to make the facial expressions of the four basic emotions. You can use a hand-held mirror to accomplish this same goal.
  6. When emotions arise while children participate in this activity, use the printed image of each emotion on the block to support children in recognizing these emotions as you label them. Provide simple causes for each of the four basic emotions related to the activity. 
  7. Encourage and praise acts of empathy and prosocial skills as children work together to build and share materials. Verbalize problem-solving that you see taking place. 

ECSEL Prompts

ECSEL Prompts are helpful questions & guiding statements you can use to provoke children’s thinking about emotions. These prompts are related to this specific activity.

Let’s try to find the sad blue block. Let’s build with only blue blocks.

Let’s count the emotions on our blocks. We have happy, sad, angry, and scared. That’s four different emotions!

I see that you have a big smile on your face. It looks like the happy emotion picture on the yellow block.

Great job working together to build the blocks!

It makes me happy that you’re having fun building. It makes me sad when I want to use all the blocks but I have to share. It makes me angry when my friend takes my block. It makes me scared when my tower falls down.

Extended Learning

Use these questions & ideas to extend children’s learning!

Extend this activity by building separate towers or stacks based on color. Incorporate further mathematical concepts by counting how many blocks of each color there are.

Work with children to build vertical towers of blocks up by color against a wall or your classroom wall-mounted mirror. See which colored tower is the tallest.

Infant – Emotional Building Blocks

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