The ancient Greeks articulated three types of knowledge, episteme, techne and phronesis. Education has emphasised two of these – ‘pure’ knowledge and technical skills – while neglecting the latter. Within early childhood a key aspect of phronesis – practical wisdom – is emotion work, and its impact on the well-being of educators. Taking a sociological approach to emotions within early childhood reveals how these are shaped by issues of gender, social class and other dimensions of inequality, rather than being universal. Drawing on interviews with childcare educators in Australian services, I analyse how emotion work practices become embodied over time, and the role that this emotional capital plays in moderating workforce issues such as burnout or low morale. Making the practical wisdom of early childhood educators a more conscious part of pre-service and in-service education challenges existing educational approaches, and enables a more critical, reflexive and resilient workforce.