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Ideas for Teaching Children about Emotions

Daily Ideas

  • Make different emotion faces and have children guess what you might be feeling.
  • Throughout the day, help children learn to label their own emotions (e.g., it looks like you are feeling mad that we can't go outside; what can we do to help you feel better?)
  • While reading stories to children, have children guess how the characters in the story are feeling. Ask questions like “How can you tell that the character is feeling that way? Can you make a face that shows that feeling?”
  • During mealtime, tell children about a situation that makes you feel a particular emotion (e.g., happy, sad, frustrated, angry, jealous, etc.). Then ask children to share the things that make them feel that same emotion.
  • Make up silly songs about different emotions, using any tune. For example (to row row your boat) — I feel happy when I play outside. Let me show you my happy face (everyone makes a happy face together). I feel angry when someone takes my toy. Let me show you my angry face (everyone make an angry face together).I feel scared when I hear a loud noise. Let me show my scared face (everyone make a scared face together).
  • Use puppets to act out different situations (e.g., one puppet takes a toy from another puppet); ask the children what emotion(s) the puppets might be feeling (have them choose from pictures of children making different emotions). After labeling the emotions, have children practice making the emotion with their own faces. Then ask what the puppet should do next to help when feeling the emotion. Have the puppet model coping with the emotion.
  • Play an emotion walking game while outside. Ring a bell and have everyone walk around the playground like they are sad. Ring the bell again and have the children walk like they are mad. Repeat the activity until you have practiced several emotions.
  • Sing an Emotion Hello Song to start the day. Start with "Hello, Hello, Hello and how are you? I'm fine, I'm fine, and I hope that you are too." Ask the children to volunteer other ways they could feel and/or have pictures of feeling faces to choose from. Sing the song with that emotion in your expressions, voice, and actions.
  • In any storybook you are reading, ask children to identify how the characters are feeling. They don't have to be "emotion books." Even familiar stories like Goldilocks and the Three Bears has lots of opportunities to talk about emotions (disappointed they have to wait for the porridge to cool, curious what the beds feel like, surprised to see Goldilocks, scared to see the bears...).
  • Frequently direct children to look at each other's faces and think about how they are feeling. This should happen not only when children are expressing sad or angry emotions, but also happy, excited, etc. "Desiree, look at your friend Grayson's face! He is so happy that you gave him some play dough!" Share your own emotions. At meal times, talk about something that happended in your life that made you feel frustrated, sad, happy or scared. Talk about what you did to feel better. "I was at the store yesterday and somebody got in front of me in line! I was so frustrated.... have you ever felt that way”
  • Play an emotion guessing game. Take a piece of paper or small blanket and hold it in front of your face. Slowly lower it down to reveal your face showing an emotion. Children guess the emotion you are feeling, and then show everyone their face with that same emotion. Then, talk about what might make you feel this way.
  • Change familiar songs (Twinkle, Twinkle, your classroom weather song, or Happy Birthday work great) by singing it with a different emotion. Have a child pick which way they want to sing the song (in a sad voice, in a silly voice, in a frustrated voice, in a bored voice). It takes some creativity, but is really fun!
  • Model the silliest face you can make and have the children participate as well.
  • As children come in for the day have them say how they are feeling. Ask the rest of the class for appropriate ways to respond to their feelings. For example, if a child says they are happy, a friend could give them a high five. If a child says they are shy, a friend could hold their hand during circle.
  • While reading books have the children raise their hands when they can tell how the characters are feeling. Then have them act out those feelings or make faces that correspond with the feelings as you read the book. For example, maybe the mom in the story is feeling frustrated, all the kids can make frustrated faces until she lightens her mood and is happy and then they will change their faces as well. This is a neat activity because we kind of do this naturally with wrinkling of the brow and laughter. If you have kids do this everyday as a part of the story routine, it will become more and more natural.
  • Have a “feeling face” snack time! Pull a feeling face and ask kids to eat snack showing the matching emotion. For example, during “sad snack” kids might eat while frowning and pretending to cry. This can facilitate some great conversations about how our friends look when feeling these emotions and what might make them feel that way.
  • At recess play Feelings Ring Around the Rosie. Have each child take a turn choosing an emotion and the sing the song and act it out using those emotions. Change the end action to match the emotion. Instead of “all fall down”, for angry say “take a deep breath” or for excited say, “all shout HOORAY!”
  • At the end of the day, have a debriefing session when each child gets to express an emotion they had during the day. Give them a prompted sentence to work with such as "Today, I felt ________ when ________ happened." As kids get onto the bus or into cars with their parents encourage them to tell the caregiver their emotion sentence, which will hopefully encourage discussion on the way home. Give the child a picture of a feeling face to help them remember.
  • Join in play in the pretend area and start conversations about how the imaginary characters they are acting out feel. Help them to make their characters even more real by giving them emotions and acting those out.
  • Communicate on eye level with all children and show them how your face looks when you feel different emotions. For example, you might say, “ I'm feeling sad because my friends weren't listening to me when it was my turn to talk, see how my mouth and eyes turn down and I got really quiet.”
  • Praise children specifically when they use emotion words to talk to their friends or teachers. Explain to them and nearby peers how using emotions words helps those people around them to know exactly how they are feeling which is why you are so proud of them.
  • Always use emotion words when talking to other teachers and other children. Use any examples of what is going on in your life to teach the kids how you are responding to emotions. Have children look in mirror and practice making mad/sad/happy faces. Provide small individual mirrors for each child to use at large or small group.
  • Say the silliest sentence you can think of without laughing. Have the children do the same and see who can say the longest sentence without laughing.
  • Make an excited face and explain to the children the facial features that would indicate you are excited. Have the children make an excited face after you have modeled the expression.
  • Sing when you're happy and you know it with verses using happy, mad, sad, excited, scared etc. Include the actions you might do when you are feeling each emotion. For example, “If you're mad and you know it, scrunch your face, give a growl, cross your arms, etc.” Have children generate different ideas. Have each child look in the mirror when they arrive. Label what emotion you think they are feeling by describing the facial features of that emotion.
  • At lunch, tell the children what is your favorite food and why. They ask them what their favorite food is and why.
  • Mirror Faces: Have children line up in pairs that face each other. One child pretends he is looking in the mirror and makes an emotion face. The other child acts like the reflection and copies the emotion with his/her own face.
  • Include emotion words in your discussion of letters and letter sounds. For example: What emotion words start with /s/? Sad, Sulky, Surprised, Silly, etc.
  • Visit the home living center today and talk about how the children's characters feel. For example, “Dinner fell on the floor. I bet you are so frustrated! Let me help you.” Or “You look so excited about being a waitress.” “My food is cold. I'm getting a little angry.”
  • Look in the mirror together. Help the child describe him/herself, and you.
  • Transition children out of a large-group activity by asking them to make an emotion face ("Carmen, show me a sad face. Great! You may walk to the door." )
  • During mealtime, tell children about a situation that makes you feel a particular emotion (e.g., happy, sad, frustrated, angry, jealous, etc.) Then ask children to share the things that make them feel that same emotion.
  • Share your own emotions. At meal times, talk about something that happended in your life that made you feel frustrated, sad, happy and scared. Talk about what you did to feel better. "I was at the store yesterday and somebody got in front of me in line! I was so frustrated.... have you ever felt that way?"
  • Call out emotions and have the children show you the emotion. Adapt songs like "If You're Happy and You Know It" to include a variety of emotions--surprised, tired, shy, angry--to help children practice the faces and vocabulary.
  • While children wait on the carpet for the rest of the class to finish cleaning up, play a game like charades. The teacher will whisper an emotion in the child's ear who will then act out something that makes him/her feel that way. The rest of the children should guess what the emotion is.
  • When discussing new seasons, discuss certain things that occur in that particular season that make the children feel a certain way. For example, "Summer makes me excited because it is warm outside and I get to go to the pool. But summer also makes me sad because I miss my friends from school during the summer."
  • Pretend play is a great place to talk about emotions. Jump into their play and use emotions to talk about the stories they are creating! (" It's time for a birthday party - I'm so excited, are you excited?", "Daddy has to go to work, I'm so sad!")
  • Circle time: make a list of who feels happy, sad, lonely, etc and ask the child to share why they feel that way
  • At art: children draw faces and label the people's emotions
  • Tell children to choose a feeling such as happy, mad, sad, surprised etc. and let the children draw picture of a time they felt that way
  • Use different colors for different feelings: for example red for mad feeling, let the children draw something that makes them feel mad
  • Make different emotion faces and have children guess what you might be feeling.
  • Listen to different types of music during Music and Movement. Talk about what kind of things the music reminds them of or how it makes them feel.
  • Throughout the day, model labeling your own emotions (e.g., I feel frustrated because I cannot open this jar of paint).
  • Throughout the day, help children learn to label their own emotions (e.g., it looks like you are feeling mad that we can't go outside; what can we do to help you feel better?)
  • While reading stories to children, have children guess how the characters in the story are feeling. How can children tell that the characters are feeling that way? Can the children make a face that shows that feeling?
  • Make up silly songs about different emotions, using any tune. For example (to row row your boat) — I feel happy when I play outside. Let me show you my happy face (everyone makes a happy face together). I feel angry when someone takes my toy. Let me show you my angry face (everyone make an angry face together). I feel scared when I hear a loud noise. Let me show my scared face (everyone make a scared face together).

Weekly Ideas

  • During sensory play (e.g., sand, shaving cream), have children draw what a happy, sad, frustrated, etc. face looks like.
  • Have children identify how they are feeling (e.g., put their name tag on the emotion face that describes how they feel or pointing to picture of emotion face that describes how they feel) when they arrive at school.
  • Children can make their own puppets out of paper bags, making different emotion faces on each puppet. The puppets can be used during dramatic play or during a circle time activity to talk about or act out different emotions.
  • Draw or take pictures of happy and sad faces; let the children match or sort the faces
  • During art, make paper plate feeling faces. Use skin tone paint and lots of collage materials so children can create different feeling faces. Hang all of the emotion faces the children make on the wall and pair with real photographs of the children in your class expressing the same emotions.
  • If you write a newsletter or notes to parents, incorporate the emotion words the children have been practicing or have identified during the day into the note. This may help to encourage discussion of emotion words in the home setting as well.
  • Make the CSEFEL feeling faces (or your own paper plate creations) into masks by cutting out eyes and placing them on a popscicle stick. Have them in the book center for children to act out stories. Be sure to have a mirror there so children can see how they look!
  • Take pictures of the children making different emotion faces and make different posters for each emotion.
  • Take pictures of the children making an emotion face (let them choose) and make a fun class book. Each page has a child's picture with the top half of the face covered by a paper flap. The text says, "Who is this scared boy?" Under the flap, write "It's Greg! He is showing us his scared face."
  • For a math activity, create happy and sad faces, let the children create patterns with those faces
  • Listen to some different types of music such as rock music, classic etc., let the children dance to the music, ask children how the song made the children feel
  • Let children cut out people from magazine showing different emotions, let children sort them based on the emotions
  • Emotion Password: Hang an emotion face card on the door jam. In order to pass through, children have to make that face.
  • Play a “Mystery Emotion” game. Put an emotion face card in an envelope without showing the children. Act out that emotion, and encourage children to guess what Mystery Emotion is hiding in the envelope
  • Build excitement for a special snack or a meal. Talk about how “excited” you are about a special treat at lunch today. Act “surprised” when you see the treat and talk about your feelings.
  • When eating small snacks like raisins or Cheerios, let children arrange the raisins or Cheerios so they look like “emotion faces” before eating it. Happy, sad, surprised are all easy faces to try.
  • Use emotion faces for patterning on your calendar. Draw a face on each number card and help children identify the pattern.
  • During art, have children use glue to draw a face displaying a particular emotion. Pour sand or glitter on the drawing.

Home Ideas

  • Throughout your routines, model labeling your own emotions (e.g., “I feel frustrated because I cannot open this jar of pickles!”).
  • Use meals and routines at the end of the day as a time to discuss the day with your children. Talk about events during the day that made you happy, times when you were frustrated and work you did that made you proud of yourself. Ask the children to share their experiences.
  • Throughout the day, help children learn to label their own emotions (e.g., it looks like you are feeling mad that we can't go outside; what can we do to help you feel better?)
  • While reading stories to children, have children guess how the characters in the story are feeling. How can children tell that the characters are feeling that way? Can the children make a face that shows that feeling?
  • During bathroom routines, have children look in mirror and practice making mad/sad/happy faces
  • When children are doing art activities, ask them to draw people displaying certain emotions. Have them come up with a reason why those people could be feeling that particular way.
  • In the morning, discuss things you are excited about for the upcoming day.
  • During mealtime, tell children about a situation that makes you feel a particular emotion (e.g., happy, sad, frustrated, angry, jealous, etc.) Then ask children to share the things that make them feel that same emotion.
  • Add more complicated emotion words to daily talk as children start to understand the basic emotions. Some appropriate examples are “proud,” “disappointed,” “embarrassed,” “surprised,” and many others.
  • Have a special snack where you give children raisin or cheerios and have them make as many emotion faces as they can with the food. After, they get to eat a fun, nutritious snack.

 


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