‘Warm fuzzies’ are used as part of a range of positive behaviour strategies and to help teach emotional literacy.
 They are usually small wooly pompoms which can either be decorated or plain. A ‘warm fuzzy’ in the classroom can be used as a physical representation of the warm, happy feeling that any act of being kind brings to both the giver and the receiver. Think of them as being like little, tactile, random acts of kindness. They are not given out in payment or as a reward. This is not a positive reinforcement behaviour strategy, like using stickers or marbles for good behaviour. Children should have free access to the supply and be able to give as many as they like, as often as they like, once they have grasped the concept. It can be used in conjunction with a Bucket Fillers scheme (more on that next week!) or as a stand alone strategy.
Making Warm Fuzzies as one of your positive behaviour strategies
You can buy ‘warm fuzzies’ for your classroom. They are little balls of fluff, often with feet and googly eyes, usually sold in bulk. However the whole point about warm fuzzies is that they never run out and that makes buying them a very expensive option. I found that the best way to have an almost limitless supply was to get the children to make them. This has numerous advantages. It gives the children a sense of ownership of the scheme and helps them to invest in it. I prefer to separate the making from the giving and work with small groups or individuals to make our communal collection of warm fuzzies. These can then be stored somewhere so that the whole class has access to them.
All you need is some wool, funky foam or cardboard for feet and a jar of googley eyes. I used to keep my jar with wool and some plastic forks ready for children to make their own. It is a good, quick, ‘busy hands’ activity, and, while hands are busy is an excellent time for quiet conversations. Five minutes at the end of a guided reading session or another group activity can be spent discussing and reflecting on the activity whilst hands are busy making warm fuzzies. Once children get the knack it is amazing how quickly they can be made by using the following method:
You Will Need
If you are making warm fuzzies with the children you will need
- Wool, real wool rather than acrylic is nicer to the touch, warmer & fuzzier
- Plastic or wooden forks, must have a gap in the middle.
- Sharp scissors (with adult supervision!)
- Funky foam or coloured card for the feet
- Googley eyes or card for eyes (optional)
- Glue, or if possible, double sided sticky tape.
I cannot say this too often – Do this with the children! Not at home, not in your own time, unless you happen to enjoy it of course! Be kind to yourself too 🙂
- Cut a length of wool and fold it in half
- Thread it through the middle of the tines of the fork
- Wrap wool round the outside of the fork, not too tight or it will be hard to remove
- Spreading the wool along the whole length of the fork makes a rounder shape.
- Keeping mainly to the middle gives a tall thin shape and a flat base.
- Either of these styles work and look fun afterwards!
- Cut out some feet from foam or cardboard
- Use a dab of PVA glue or (better) double sided sticky tape to attach the pom-pom to the feet
- Do the same with the eyes.
- Eyes and feet are fun but optional. They do tend to fall off so you might choose to avoid them.
- Make far more than you think you will ever need!
It is fun to have a special container for your warm fuzzies and many teachers use a decorated sweetie jar or similar. The main thing I would say about this is that it must be freely available to the children. It is not something that should be under the teacher’s, or the TA’s control. Children need free access to the supply of warm fuzzies or the point is lost. A big, open, unbreakable, bowl or a box, placed somewhere that it won’t easily be tipped over works well.
The Story of the Warm Fuzzies
The idea comes originally from psychology and Transaction Analysisand I first came across it via a children’s book called TA for Kids. There is an older book, which has dated quite badly now, which tells the story of the warm fuzzies and their counterpart the ‘cold pricklies’ in more depth. I wouldn’t use that book directly with children. I preferred to tell a simpler oral version of the story. You can find the basic story here: A Warm Fuzzy Tale. I suggest you learn it and then tell your own shorter version to the children. It is meant to be like a fairy tale so keep the witch but alter the rest of the language to help your children connect with it.
Find books about positive behaviour strategies and emotional literacy in the Classroom Displays bookshop
Possible problems with these positive behaviour strategies and how to deal with them
It is worth saying that there can be issues with using warm fuzzies, especially with troubled children.
Not all children (or adults!) are comfortable with this idea. Sometimes it can bring difficult feelings to the surface and cause unexpected reactions, including sadness, anger and hostility. Tact and gentle support can be very helpful.
Another management issue can arise when the fuzzies become a kind of classroom currency. Any experienced teacher or TA will recognise this phenomenon.Hoarding, collecting and trading are natural activities for primary aged children and the warm fuzzies can easily become part of that, if you are not careful.
I found that we had to be very explict in the setting up of the scheme so that children understood there was no need to hoard or even steal ‘warm fuzzies’ as the supply was unlimited. Even then some children, perhaps because of their emotional background, found it hard to grasp this and much tact and understanding was needed to help them work through it.
Some children crave the physical stimulation that holding and fiddling with a warm fuzzy can give. You’ll quickly identify them, if you don’t know who they are already. Make sure they have an acceptable alternative to fiddle with. Keep the warm fuzzies for their intended purpose .
As an adult in the class it can be hard to keep hold of the idea that we are not in charge of the warm fuzzies. Beware of removing someone’s stock of warm fuzzies, how ever badly they behaved or you will quickly be identified as the witch with her bag of cold pricklies, and no one wants that!
Using A Warm Fuzzies Display Area
One way to counter some of these problems is to have a warm fuzzies display area. This is a display where the children can store their warm fuzzies. You can adapt a plastic shoe hanger bag giving each child a pocket. I prefer to use A4 piece of card for each child and glue on either a clear plastic pocket or a decorated brown paper bag. Children can help to make these and decorate their card. It is good to use soft textures to decorate the cards, foam, felt or textured papers.
I like this idea because you can hang them somewhere easily accessible and not too high for children to easily interact with, along the bottom of a display area for example. It is no fun if you have to ask someone to put the warm fuzzy into the bag for you.
Which ever you choose it is a good idea to have something tactile on the display and to use lots of soft, inviting textures. I like to use textured paper or even felt for the lettering. A collection of warm fuzzies can be stuck to the display as well, maybe in a heart shape and again, this really should be where it can be touched.
Don’t forget to make pockets for yourself and the rest of the classroom staff. Children will sometimes want to give you warm fuzzies and you should be gracious enough to accept and enjoy them. You are, of course, modeling the behaviour you want to see.
At an agreed point in the process, say once a week, or once a fortnight, all the warm fuzzies go back to the main container. This gives you a chance to remove any damaged or dirty ones (it does happen!)Make this clear from the start and children will just accept it.
These physical aspects of positive behaviour strategies are not meant to go on for ever. Once the class has learned how to identify, give and receive warm fuzzies then it is time to move on to something else. Some children may take longer and in small nurture groups, SEN groups or with the learning mentor the strategy may continue for some time.
- "the ability to understand your emotions, the ability to listen to others and empathise with their emotions, and the ability to express emotions productively." Steiner, C. with Perry, P. (1997) Achieving Emotional Literacy. London: Bloomsbury.↩
-  TA is a theory of personality for personal growth and personal change. Read more on Wikipedia ↩