Emotions Activities for Kids

Check out these emotions activities for kids to help teach emotional intelligence at home.

“Feelings come and go,” says the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, “like clouds in a windy sky.” At some level we all know this. But in the moment, it can be tricky to remember. We might feel overwhelmed with anger, worry, or sadness and react in unhealthy ways.

It’s especially difficult for kids. To help with this, we’ve created an emotions chart and accompanying cards that can help kids name and navigate their feelings.

Games

Emotion Charades

Play a game of emotion charades. Put the emotion cards in a pile face down. One person picks a card without revealing what’s on the card and then acts out the emotion while everyone else guesses the emotion.

To play a more difficult and humorous version of the game, require the actor to keep their face expressionless and only use their body (arms, legs, posture).

Headbands

Inspired by Childhood101.com.

Each person picks a card and attaches it to their head via a headband, a piece of scotch tape, or just doing a little lick and stick. Go around the table and ask questions to get clues about what your emotion is.

Questions have to be answered with “yes” or “no.”

For example:

  • “Would I feel this if I were going to my favorite restaurant?”
  • “Would I feel this if i just found out my best friend was moving out of the country?”
  • “Would I feel this if I forgot my homework?”

Pretend

Play a game of pretend where each person chooses a toy or stuffed animal and a scenario. Then have each person draw an emotion card, which will define their character during the game or chapter in the unfolding story.

Example scenarios:

  • “You’re lost in a forest together and have to find your way out”
  • “You’re about to go on a trip to outer space together and have to pack”
  • “You’re searching for buried treasure in a dense jungle forest.”

A spin on this for older kids could be playing an improv theater game.

After playing, reflect:

  • Which emotions were most helpful for accomplishing your goal?
  • Which emotions were least helpful?

Activities

Emotions Check-in

This works especially well at the beginning of the day and at the end of the day. Let your child pick the emotions card that describes how they are feeling in the moment and talk about why.

  • “Where do you feel it?”
  • “What does the emotion feel like?”
  • “What color is it?”
  • “Is it rough?”
  • “Is it soft?”
  • “Imagine that the space around it is expanding. How does it feel now?”

Have your child pick an emotion card they’d like to feel more of. Ask them to think of 3 things they can do to invite that feeling more into their experience.

Have your child pick an emotion card they want to feel less of.

Ask questions curiously without a right or wrong answer:

  • “When do you notice feeling this emotion most often?”
  • “What time of day?”
  • “Where are you?”
  • “What are you doing?”

Tell them to be a feelings detective and notice the clues of the next time they start to feel that emotion.

Make the shape of a feeling with your body. Invite each person to exaggerate the shape. Ask:

  • What does your face look like when you’re sad?
  • What about your head, shoulders, hands, and the rest of your body?
  • What are the thoughts and beliefs your body is communicating when you experience sadness?
  • Slowly change the shape of your body from sad to calm.
  • What looks different?
  • What feels different?

FEEL

Use what we call FEEL to work through emotions.

Find the emotion.
Engage with the emotion.
Express the emotion in a healthy way.
Love the emotion.

Example:

  • Find: “I have anger in my body. I should take a breath…”
  • Engage: “What is anger telling me? … It’s telling me that I don’t deserve to be bullied.”
  • Express: “Feeling anger in my body motivates me to talk to a grownup and fix the problem.”
  • Love: “Thank you, anger, for helping me be clear that I’ve had enough. There is space for you.”

Traditional Card Games

War

Play a traditional game of war by assigning a value to card colors, such as:

Yellow > Green > Blue > Red 

Split the deck evenly so each player has an equal number of cards. Each player plays the top card in their hand each turn. The player who plays the card with the highest value (yellow, in the case above) wins all the cards.

If there are two or more cards with equally high values, the players who played those cards put down an additional card to see who wins the full pile.

Since this game can go on for a long time, consider saying that once a play is down to three cards, they are out.

Go Fish

Give each player four cards*, which they can look at. Put a draw pile (face down) and a discard pile (face up) in the middle of all players.

The objective is to get a set of four different colors.

On your turn choose a player and ask them if they have a card of the color you want to help you get a set. If they do, they give you the card. If they don’t, they say, “Go fish,” which means you have to pull from the draw pile or discard pile and discard one of your cards so each player always has four cards.

The player who gets the most sets wins.

*If you’re playing with more than three players, adjust to giving three cards and aiming for sets of three.

Have Additional Emotions Activities for Kids?

Have an emotions activity that works for kids? Let us know at info@UpliftKids.org, and we’ll add it here. 

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