Hands-On Learning Games: Help Your Child Learn About Feelings

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Being unable to describe what’s bothering you can be really frustrating for young children.  Being able to identify and name the feeling you are feeling allows your child a safe way to release that feeling, as well as gain sympathy, comfort, and acceptance.

It also paves the way for problem-solving, since once you can explain how you feel, you have a better chance of working together with another person to help you overcome whatever issue is at hand.

This is why it’s common for younger children or children who have language delays to hit, tantrum, or withdraw more than other children.

Most experts recommend talking with your child about feelings, using pictures as children expressing certain emotions. The problem with this, however, is that young children often don’t understand or have patience to hear lengthy explanations.

This hands-on learning game is different, in that it uses only pictures to demonstrate the meanings of various feelings. It also allows your child more freedom in choosing which emotions match which event; for example, not all children might be happy to see a dog. Some might feel scared. If your child chooses to put the scared face underneath the dog, you’ll have a chance to talk with her about why she feels that way.


-Pictures of children expressing the following emotions: happy, sad, angry, disappointed, disgusted, scared, worried, excited, and frustrated. You can either take pictures of a cooperative older child, or find pictures online.

-Pictures of common, everyday events: toy breaking, receiving a present, falling down, a lost child, child trying to tie shoes but not succeeding (or other event that you know is frustrating for your child), child waiting by window while parent goes away, child eating food they don’t like, child going on trip to fun place, picture of bug or worm.

-A picture of your child, or a favorite doll or stuffed toy

-You can print out the pictures on sturdy paper, or glue each one on poster board. Laminate for durability (you can also use clear contact paper of tape if you’re short on funds).

The possibilities are really endless, and you can not only choose pictures that are specific to your child and family situation, but you can also add new pictures every so often. Just make sure you have at least 2 pictures for each feeling.


Make this game self-correcting: Draw a colored frame around the feeling picture and the matching situation pictures. For example, put a yellow border on a “sad” feeling picture and its’ match, a broken toy. You don’t have to do this with all of the pictures, if you want to leave some pictures open-ended.

Click Here! for 100 activities that foster higher order and creative thinking skills in 3 to 7 year olds.

How to Play the Game:

1. Place all of the pictures depicting feelings in a horizontal row. If your child is young or has learning differences, you might choose to start with just 4 or 5 pictures.

2. Place the events in a pile between you and your child.

3. Place the picture of your child, or the stuffed toy, above the feeling picture cards.

3. Let your child choose one picture. Name the picture for your child, “That’s a broken car.”

4. Say to your child, “Oh, the toy broke!” Now point to the picture of your child, or the stuffed animal, and say,” That makes (insert name of child or stuffed animal) feel…”

5. Look at the pictures, and choose a picture that is definitely not the answer. “Does it make (name of child or stuffed animal) feel happy?” If your child still doesn’t understand, place the correct picture under the feeling card, pointing to the matching colored border around each.

6. Continue with each picture until you finish the game.

Extension: You can download this song about feelings for free here:http://www.dreamenglish.com/feelings . You can sing along with your child, making a face for the feeling you hear.

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