Emotion Identification Activities for Kids

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Learning how to recognize and respond to someone else's emotions is an important part of learning how to thrive in social situations. This lesson offers activities for teaching children to identify emotions.

Identifying Emotions Matters

Have you ever thought about what makes someone a good friend, an empathic listener, or a supportive colleague or family member? One of the keys to these contexts is learning how to read someone else's emotions and respond to them appropriately. For some people, emotion identification comes naturally, but many children need a lot of practice and even explicit instruction in how to identify and think about another person's feelings. The more chances children get to work on this skill, the better equipped they will be to handle challenges that come up. In this lesson, you will find activities that help children learn about and practice identifying and responding to other people's emotions.

Emotion Identification Activities

Pictures of Faces

This is a great activity for students who respond well to images and like to learn by using visuals. Begin your preparation by taking a series of candid snapshots of children in your class. Try to zoom in on their facial expressions. Alternatively, you can use images from the internet or magazines. Break your students into small groups, and give each group a packet of the same images. Have them work together to look at each picture and answer the following questions:

  • What feeling is the kid in this picture having?
  • When is a time that I have had this feeling?
  • How would I act toward someone who is having this feeling?

At the end of the period, bring your students together and have them share what they came up with, comparing and contrasting their 'reads' of the emotions in the picture.

Emotional Response Role Play

This activity is well-suited to kinesthetic learners, those who like to use their bodies or have a particularly dramatic flair. Gather your whole class together for this activity. In an envelope, put slips of paper with emotion on them. Some examples might be 'happy', 'excited', 'sad', 'angry', 'jealous', 'scared', and 'worried'. Ask one student to come to the front of the room and choose a slip of paper. He or she should think for a minute, then act out the emotion. Alternatively, you can have two students come up at a time and act out a scenario with that emotion together. When the actor or actors are done, others in the class should guess what the emotion being enacted is. Then, they should talk about how it feels to have that emotion and how they might respond to a friend, family member, or classmate who is experiencing that emotion.

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