At Children’s Learning Centers of Fairfield County, our play-based learning philosophy allows children to discover the world at their own pace through hands-on, fun activities. All of our classrooms use the Creative Curriculum, which is backed by comprehensive child development research. The curriculum is built upon hands-on learning, sensory awareness, creative expression, multicultural socialization and lessons that develop literacy and science skills, as well as self-esteem and physical development.

Social and Emotional Development

At CLC, social and emotional development is also a crucial part of our programs. Yale researchers, along with CLC teachers, administrators, children and families have created the first early childhood version of the breakthrough RULER program, an innovative approach to social and emotional development.

RULER is an evidence-based approach to social and emotional learning. It was developed at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and supports entire school communities in understanding the importance of emotions, building the skills of emotional intelligence, and creating and maintaining a positive environment at school.

Using the Yale University Pre-K RULER 

Preschool is the time when children begin to understand the cause of their emotions, making social and emotional development a crucial part of the preschool experience. Empathy also emerges and for many, it’s the first time they are asked to regulate emotions around people outside their families.

The Yale University Pre-K RULER is all about helping children manage their emotions to create a positive place for learning.

“The early childhood years are a sensitive period for the development of emotional intelligence. Children’s language and vocabulary skills are rapidly developing during this time and ensuring that children have the language and strategies they need to manage their emotions can have a profound impact on early childhood classrooms,” said Shauna Tominey, Ph.D. and Associate Research Scientist at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence.

What does RULER stand for?

According to the Yale University RULER Approach website, RULER stands for:

Recognizing emotions in oneself and in others.
Understanding the causes and consequences of emotions.
Labeling emotions with a nuanced vocabulary.
Expressing emotions in accordance with cultural norms and social context.
Regulating emotions with helpful strategies.

It is a way for children to use their emotions effectively – which improves everything from decision making and judgment to physical and mental health, according to Yale researchers. The program is used across all of CLC’s locations and programs.

Why are emotions important?

According to the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, research shows that emotions influence many areas of our daily lives including:

  • Our attention, memory and learning
  • Our decision making
  • Our creativity
  • Our mental and physical wellbeing
  • Our ability to form and maintain positive relationships
  • Our academic and workplace performance

CLC teachers say RULER helps to create a calmer atmosphere in the classroom. By using RULER, they say they have seen students help each other and find ways to have more pleasant feelings, which improves the learning environment for everyone.


Developing skills through RULER is based on four tools which the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence has outlined. They include:

Charter: Building and sustaining positive emotional climates by creating agreed-upon norms for how people want to feel and how they can help each other to experience those feelings.

Mood Meter: Enhances self and social awareness while supporting the development of a nuanced emotion vocabulary and a range of strategies for regulating emotion.

The Mood Meter is a chart with four squares, each in a different color. The squares are green, blue, yellow and red. Students put a sticker of their face on the square with the color of their mood every morning. They then rate how much they are feeling that emotion on a scale of one to five. This allows teachers to understand how the child is feeling that day and offer extra support where they need to.

Learn more about the mood meter and why it’s so helpful for preschool children’s social and emotional development in the video, here.

Meta-Moment: Provides a process for responding to emotional situations with strategies that align with one’s best self and that support healthy relationships and personal well-being.

Blueprint: Supports the development of empathy and conflict resolution skills by serving as a guide for reflecting on conflict and restoring affected communities.

Each of these tools is outlined on the Yale University Ruler Approach website, here.

What do CLC teachers say about RULER?

“It makes them aware of their own feelings and gives them a way to get it out,” said CLC Room 5 Head Teacher, Jackie. “They learn how to express and understand their feelings, which allows them to understand one another and act with more kindness,” she added.

You can learn more about the evidence for RULER here. They include positive shifts in school climate, enhanced academic performance, quality relationships, less bullying and aggressive behavior.

The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence named CLC a Marvin Maurer Award winner for our work developing the Pre-K RULER program. It’s given to organizations that exhibit outstanding commitment to promoting emotional intelligence.

Learn more about the RULER program here and the evidence for RULER here.

About CLC

Children’s Learning Centers of Fairfield County (CLC) is committed to providing early childhood education for all families, with direct services and programs focused in health, nutrition & family support for children aged 6 weeks – 5 years of age. Find more information about enrollment, here!