Have you ever thought about how many distinct emotions we generally feel throughout a day? Emotions, big or small, play a major role in determining the decisions we make everyday. Emotional intelligence, therefore, is an important skill to have for everyone. Simply put, it’s the ability to be aware of one’s emotions and identifying those of others. Teaching young children to recognize their various emotions but it can be quite a tricky task. Children with developmental disabilities and cognitive deficits, especially, may need additional help in identifying and regulating their emotions.
F is for Fun and Feelings
Imagine giving a lecture to young children about all the 27 distinct emotions that humans are said to have. No matter how articulate you are, chances are most children might not pick up any valuable information on how to deal with emotions. Emotions is a complex concept to teach. As distinct as many of these emotions are, they are also interconnected. So, the best way to teach emotion is through fun activities and games. Here are a few simple, interesting ideas to help children learn emotions:
Story and Movies
What’s great about using stories and movies is that you can teach emotions with an activity that most children typically love. They also offer excellent opportunities to help children make the connection between an emotion and something that happened in the story.
“Look at Sara. She looks sad.”
“I think she is sad because her brother fought with her.”
You can use emotion cards while reading the story and ask children to place the right emotion card that corresponds to how the character in the story is feeling.
“Johnny got a huge present. He must be feeling…”
Encourage the child to place the right emotion card or tap the appropriate icon in their AAC system.
Emotion Masks Game
Make DIY masks using craft paper and draw the different emotions on them. There are two ways to play this game. One is to wear a mask and ask the learner to identify the emotion. You can also explain a situation and encourage the learner to tell you how they would feel by wearing a mask.
“Remember when you were the first to finish the puzzle. How did you feel?”
“You told me that you miss your grandparents. How do you feel about that?”
Personal Photo Album
This can be a fun project to do with siblings and friends. Name an emotion or give a scenario and ask children to act out the emotions they would feel.
“You dropped your ice cream on the floor. How would you feel?”
“I’m baking your favourite cake today. How would you feel?”
“Your tablet runs out of charge. How would you feel?”
Click photos as children make faces to show the different emotions. Print the photos and make an album. Use the album to help children identify the facial expressions corresponding to each emotion.
Emotions Scale/ Chart
Also called, Feelings scale or stress chart, this is a very simple tool with which we can teach children to develop their emotional intelligence. The scale has numeric and visual representation of feelings ranging from positive to negative. Encourage children to point to the color or picture that represents how they are feeling. When you find them in a good mood, ask them to tell you how they feel using the scale. If you noticed any antecedent to challenging behaviours, tell them they can use the scale to tell you when they get frustrated or overwhelmed.
The volume and tone in which we speak can imply emotions. Children with social communication challenges can miss these cues and can misinterpret messages. One way to teach voice tone to children is record sentences with different voice tones. Play them back and explain how the different tones can suggest different emotions.
Speaking the same sentence in different tones helps children understand that tone is something they should pay attention to in addition to facial expressions.
“I don’t want to talk now” can be said in a sad and angry tone.
“She gave me this story book” can be said in different tones indicating excitement, disappointment, happiness, and anger.
Avaz AAC Resources for Teaching Emotions
Here’s a story about Johnny, a little boy and his different emotions. Read the story and help the child identify the emotions. You can ask the learner to match the emotion tiles from the given Vocab Toolbox to the emotions in the book. You can also encourage them to tap the corresponding emotion icon on their AAC system.
It’s important to give communicators vocabulary to describe their emotions so that they can express their distinct feelings. Avaz AAC offers extensive vocabulary for emotions. You can download communication board for emotions here. that can help develop the emotional intelligence skills of young children.