Social and Emotional Learning: Be a Bucket Filler

Playful Learning: Be a Bucket Filler

Life sure does have its share of ups and downs!

Sometimes, they clearly come from outside life events. Yet, other times it’s the subtle nudges we get throughout the day, without even realizing it, that triggers our mood swings.

One way to help children manage these highs and lows is to teach them how to notice the little things they do throughout the day that may fill or empty their own buckets as well as the buckets of their friends and loved ones.

Now, what do I mean by filling and emptying buckets? This notion comes from a book called, How Full is Your Bucket? For Kids by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer. The story explains that everyone has an invisible bucket—when it’s empty they feel bad, but when it’s full they feel good. The story proceeds to bring the reader through everyday occurrences that may empty someone’s bucket and others that fill their buckets. It also highlights the fact that often times when someone’s bucket is empty, they tend to spread the misery by doing things that empty other people’s buckets. Yet, when someone feels good and has a full bucket, they are more likely to do things that fills other people’s buckets.

This simple notion is a great way to discuss how to manage a variety of feelings with children. Though external events or other people can deplete our buckets, we have the power to refill them ourselves. In fact, we can refill our own buckets by helping to fill others!

We’ve created some helpful printables below so that you can explore these ideas more deeply with the children in your lives.





Playful Learning: Be a Bucket Filler Playful Learning: Be a Bucket Filler
Playful Learning: Be a Bucket Filler Playful Learning: Be a Bucket Filler
  • Be a Bucket Filler – Encourage your children to brainstorm ways they can fill and empty their own and other people’s buckets.
  • What Fills My Bucket? – Find a little bucket or pouch, cut out the blank strips, and invite your child to brainstorm things that fill their buckets. During challenging times, come back to these and empower your child to take charge of their bucket!
  • Filler or Dumper? – See below
  • Filler or Dumper Cut-Outs – Cut-out and review the everyday occurrences with your child. Decide if they are bucket fillers or bucket dumpers and glue them in the appropriate column on the Filler or Dumper printable above.




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With over 10 years of EDU experience and a growing family, Mariah started Playful Learning in 2008 as a resource for parents and teachers. In 2010 Playful Learning received the Parent’s Choice Gold Medal, and in August of 2011, Shambhala Publications released her first book, Playful Learning: Develop Your Child’s Sense of Joy and Wonder. Mariah has an M.S. Ed in Elementary Education and was that girl sitting in the back of class thinking about what she would do differently if she was the teacher. Now she is happily working with a team of gifted educators to bring life-changing lessons to children, families, and schools around the world. In her free time she can be found taking long walks, enjoying a cup of tea, or swimming in the Atlantic with her husband and two daughters.


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