Using Emotion cards with Kids
Emotion cards are an ideal way to help children explore and talk about feelings. There are so many ways of using emotion cards with kids when helping them explore or express feelings.
Emotion cards are a series of cards that visually depict human emotions so children can identify feelings. They may be drawings or photographs of faces. Some emotion cards use symbols such as emojis. However, teaching children the words for emotions will be more successful if photographs of real faces are used rather than symbols. This is because symbol recognition is a very different skill from recognising emotions from real faces.
You can make your own emotion cards easily. Cut out a range of photographs of people with different feelings from magazines. Glue them onto small individual pieces of card. A helpful tip is not to write the name of the emotion on the card, otherwise, the child will focus on just reading the word rather than looking at the image.
If you would prefer ready-made emotion cards, the Dealing in Feelings emotion cards have two sets of 26 feelings using photo cards. There is a diverse range of real children in the set which makes these emotion cards very relatable for children. The cards can also be used to play fun card games such as Go Fish and Memory.
Emotion card activities can be used in the classroom with groups of children or individually with a child at home or in a therapy session. Try some of these emotions activities.
Name that Feeling
Spread the emotion cards face down on a tabletop. Ask the child to select a card and have them guess the emotion on the card. See if they can identify the emotion and correctly label it. Ask them about a time when they have felt the same way. If they can’t name the emotion tell them what it is and share a time when you have felt that way. Then see if they can identify some synonyms for that emotion. For example, other words for angry are mad, furious, and enraged. Generating other words for different emotions builds children’s emotional literacy as well as their emotional awareness.
Act it Out
Have a child select a card without showing you or anyone else. Then just as in charades and without speaking, they have to act or mime a short scene to depict the emotion. This activity encourages the child to correctly identify the emotion to themselves and then think about how they will convey this emotion to others. It involves thinking about how that emotion feels in their body as they try and mime the situation that led to the feeling. For younger children, this may be difficult, so select cards with basic emotions such as happy, sad, scared, and shy to start with. You can also divide children into groups and have them decide as a group how they will act out the scenario so the rest of the class can guess the emotion.
Emotion cards are a helpful way to help children understand that we can have more than one feeling about a situation. For example, we might be excited about going to a party but we might also feel nervous because we won’t know anyone else there. Explain to the child that this is called having mixed feelings and it is very common. Have a child select an emotion card from the pack. Ask them to tell you what they think the emotion is. Then they need to tell you a story about why they think the person on the card is feeling that way. You then tell them a story about the same card to demonstrate the concept of mixed feelings. For example, if the child draws an emotion card of someone feeling sad and tells a sad story, your story might show that as well as feeling sad, the person also felt loved because someone comforted them.
Create a Feeling
Encouraging children to express themselves creatively is an effective way to use emotions cards with kids. Ask the child to select an emotion card and then have them recreate the emotion using their creativity. In this activity, you will need to supply either pencils, markers, paper, or paints so they can draw or paint the emotion. Another fun way to express emotions creatively is to use play dough. Encourage the child to mould playdough onto a paper plate to create a feelings face. You can also buy ready-made cutout paper dolls that the child can use to create their emotion. This last activity is ideal for teaching preschoolers about emotions as they love manipulating the play dough and the emotion cards.
Another creative activity is to ask the child to draw or paint a picture of themselves. Then all around their picture, they write down as many emotions as they can recall feeling. With younger children, you may need to write the words for them.
There are so many ways of using emotion cards with kids to help them understand and explore feelings. They are a valuable social and emotional learning tool within the classroom and an essential child therapy tool. Children can be helped to recognise emotions in themselves and others with emotion cards because are an engaging visual tool they can interact with. Parents can also easily adapt any of these activities to explore emotions and feelings with children at home.