13 fun activities to help your child learn to recongise emotions
There are many different emotions that we feel every day. Adults and children alike will feel happy, sad, angry, scared, bored ….. We could list dozens of different emotions that will all be felt at times. All of which are perfectly normal and are part of life.
From a very young age, we begin to feel basic emotions such as happy and sad and also start to show them with facial expressions, although we might not be able to express them verbally which can lead to tantrums.
As we grow a little older, we start to recognise them by the changes we feel in our bodies and can name basic emotions in order to say how we are feeling. Around this time we also start to recognise the same feeling in others as well by noticing how they look and their behaviour. Learning how our bodies feel and understanding the emotion we are feeling is the first part to being able to regulate our behaviour.
For some children, understanding feelings in themselves and others can be difficult, which can mean they can become frustrated, distressed and unable to express themselves appropriately. These children, which often include those who are neurodiverse, may need a little extra help.
Activities & tips to help children understand & recognise emotions in themselves & others:
- Model different facial expressions showing basic emotions to start with and ask your child to copy. You could both stand in front of a mirror so that they can watch themselves.
- Draw different faces with different feelings.
- Read stories and talk about the characters in the picture – can they say how they are feeling?
- Watch children’s TV programmes and talk about the facial expressions and what is happening to make them feel that way.
- Use their different toys in pretend play to act out different scenarios and talk about how they are feeling.
- Play guess how I am feeling by acting out an emotion.
- Play guess how I am feeling by describing the feeling in your body.
- Play ‘emotions’ bingo.
- Comment on how you think your child is feeling e.g. You look like you are feeling sad…I can see your mouth is turned down and your eyes look like you might cry.
- Comment on your own feelings e.g. I am so excited about going out today ….I feel like I want to jump up and down.
- Play snap or pairs with feeling cards.
- Use different scenarios and ask – how would you feel if…
- Play computer games such as QuadEmo to help learn different emotions and ways to regulate.
Once your child has learnt what the different emotions feel like and can understand them better, you can help them learn how to regulate them. By understanding the feeling they get in their body when they are beginning to feel angry means that they can then be taught to try different strategies to help them before they get to a point when they can no longer control their behaviour.
Using something like the incredible 5 point scale by Kari Dunn Buron is helpful for the child to learn how a feeling like anger starts. So instead of seemingly going from 1 to 5 with seemingly nothing in between, they can begin to recognise what it feels like at different stages so they can do something about it before it hits 5.
Wherever your child is at in their development of recognising and understanding emotions, there are always ways to help them.
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