One of my most important tasks as a mom is to help children understand, cope with, and express their feelings.
Here are some ways to incorporate playful activities about feelings into play therapy
1. Make a deck of feeling cards. This will give you a variety of options for activities from the one deck. You can make the deck by simply copying a small feelings faces poster twice (that way you have 2 of each emotion), cutting out each feeling face, and gluing it on to half of a 3 X 5 card. Click Here for my blog post with several Faces Feelings Charts you can print for FREE to make your deck of feelings Cards.
From this one deck you can play 2 games, Feeling Memory and Fishing for Feelings (aka Go Fish).
A. Feeling Memory: spread the cards out face down and take turns trying to find the matches. If a match is found the person that got the match has to share a time they remember feeling that way. If a child can’t think of a time they felt a certain way give an example and leave it at that (but take note if they seem to be avoiding a certain category of emotions). Make sure they know there are no right or wrong answers. Playing this simple game with your child allows them the opportunity to model your behavior and hear you discuss that you have feelings too. Playing Memory also helps you access how well a child can focus, their ability to concentrate and track information.
Here are some additional Resources that you may be able to in making your Deck of Emotion Cards:
- A handout with Activities for parents & children that teaches Empathy & Emotions – page 8 has a nice Faces Feelings Chart (color) – download here: ram-understandingfeelings-tipsheet-poster-oct20-12-final
- Feelings Faces Chart, Feelings Wheel & Feelings Gage Thermometer free printable here: feelingchart
- Feelings Chart that uses a cute animal fox instead of faces. Download and print here: FOCUS_App_C_Feelings_Chart
- Feelings Faces Chart in Spanish includes translation of each emotion into english. Download & print here: Sentimientos
- A handout to help support kids through separation or divorce. Has a Feelings chart using cartoon people & also feelings cards with different vocabulary used to describe basic feelings. Download here: Tips_and_Hints_-_Info_sheets
- A simple Black & White Feelings Chart that uses circle faces – lots of feelings – download and print here: 6.2.Feelings_Vocabulary_Chart
- Another simple Black & White Feelings Chart using circle faces – many emotions – download & print here: BTC8b_sound-of-silence_feelings-chart_bw
- Yet another simple Black & White Feelings Chart using circle faces with lots of emotions – download & print here: Sample_Crisis_Plan_side_2
- Feelings Thermometer with Coping Skills – free PDF printable here: feelings_thermometer
B. Fishing for Feelings: deal out 5 cards to each and make a “pond” in the middle with the remaining cards. You each check your hands for any matches. If you have a match,you have to share a time you felt that way. The person with the most matches at the end wins … but lots of times kids don’t care about that as much as they care about the talking part of the game!
2. Ants in the Pants, Jenga (with colored blocks), and Candyland can all be easily made into feelings games too. All you need to do is assign each colored piece a feeling. For example, play Ants in the Pants non-competitively – you all use any of the different colored ants. If you get a red one in you have to share a time you were angry, yellow = happy, blue = sad, and green = whatever feeling you think the child may need to also address. Jenga that has different colored blocks, so you apply those feeling states to the colors and when you choose a block of that color to pull from the tower, you need to share a time you felt that way. With Candyland, each colored space on the board can be given a particular emotion and when you land on it you need to share when you felt that way. With a little creativity many basic games can be turned into a way to playfully talk about feelings!
3. Another creative way to address feelings in play therapy is by using a large sized laminated feelings face poster and a sticky ball. Have the child throw the sticky ball as hard as they can against the laminated poster (that is adhered to the wall) and whatever feeling face is closest to the ball (which is now stuck on the poster!) the child tells you a time they felt that way.
4. Another active way is by playing catch with an ordinary beach ball (one that has the different colored stripes – Assign a different feeling state to each color on the ball and wherever the “catcher’s” right thumb lands determines what emotion is shared. Alternatively write questions relating to feelings using a sharpie).
5. Help kids understand their feelings through a worksheet – It’s called, “The Mind-Body Connection” Worksheet. This is a great one for not only having kids recognize different feeling states, but to notice where and how they feel them throughout their body. Have the child start with the first feeling listed, “anxiety” and ask them to pick a color that makes them think of “being anxious or worried”. Ask them to color that in the key provided on the worksheet. Then ask them about a time they felt that way and then have them draw or scribble on the person where in their body that they feel that feeling. Make sure to tell them that this is NOT a normal coloring sheet and that many colors will overlap, parts will be left blank. (It’s more abstract and for this reason do this activity with older children, teens, and adults.) Then have them go through each feeling listed in the key and do the same thing.
6. An additional way of exploring feelings with more of a “felt sense”, or abstract way, is by having your child pick a color to represent a feeling and them have them draw what the feeling looks like. Or, you could have them sculpt different feelings with playdough or clay. You could also do the same thing by having them pose themselves or make a movement to describe certain feelings.
7. You can also use Spin Art as a feelings activity … for each paint color used the child shares one emotion. For Each color they use ask them to state something that makes them scared… things that bother them about their family… things that bother them at school etc. Great way to get kids chatting!
8. Helping kids create their own feeling faces book is another great way to help them recognize and discuss emotions. You could have them draw pictures of faces showing different emotions. Or, you can take photos of the child “modeling” the different feelings. Here are some examples of personalized Feeling Cards or Book:
DIY Personalized Feelings Cards:
- Emotion Words – printed (download for FREE here: Kids-Emotions-Cards)
- 3.5” x 5.5” photos of the kids making faces for each emotion word
- Laminator (thermal laminator)
- a mini 4×6” photo album
Photograph your kids acting out each emotion. Print the pictures and cut out the emotion cards. Then let your kids try matching them up. Or attach these emotions labels to the photos, put the photos in a mini photo album, and let your little ones look through it to learn how to read emotions words.
♦ Gather your materials. To start you will need to take photos of different emotions This is a great chance to talk about each of these feelings with your kids. It is a great opportunity to have such a wonderful talk with your child, share what makes you happy, sad, worried etc… really listen to each other! Make lots of silly faces together!!
♦ You will also need an Old board book (get at dollar store), contact paper, card stock , scissors, a marker and double stick tape. Variation: Use laminating sleeves instead of a board book.
♦ Write Emotions on Card Stock (or type & print)
♦ Tape pieces of card stock on each page to cover the existing illustrations. Add the photo and emotion. Cover with contact paper. Cover the paper but it does not need to go all the way to the edges. Make a Cover Page – DONE!
9.Encourage kids to keep a feelings journal. It is a great way for them to track and be in tune with their emotions. Tell them they can draw pictures or write words. A journal with a lock helps kids feel safe expressing their private feelings.
10. Feelings Matching Worksheet For kids To Fill Out.
Download PDF here: Feelings
Make Your Own Feelings Chart
Cut Faces from Magazines and Assign Appropriate Feelings/Emotions ~ What a GREAT idea!
Here are even MORE playful feelings activities around the web:
- Changing Faces – Toilet Roll Dolls from A Little Learning for Two
- A Reading Comprehension Activity on Character Emotions from Reading Confetti
- Discussion Prompt Bookmarks to Explore Emotions in Picture Books from My Little Bookcase
- A Life Size Body Map of “How Does it Feel?” from Little Moments
- Create a simple, “emotional” Playdough face from No Time for Flash Cards
- Paper Plate Emotion Masks from No Time for Flash Cards
- Explore feelings with Emotional Snowmen from No Time for Flash Cards
- a round-up of Teaching Emotional Intelligence from Carrots are Orange
- Mood Stones from Happy Whimsical Hearts
- Create a Felt Jack-o-Lantern to Explore Emotions from The Artful Child
- Emotional Animals Dice Game from Sweeter than Sweets
- Feeling Faces puzzle (free printable) – from Z Lesa
- Label Feeling Faces from Miss Mary Liberry
- Feelings Lapbook from Rockabye Butterfly
- Mirrors and Making Faces from Rainy Day Mum