14 Activities to Work Emotions in Children and Adolescents

In this article we show you activities to work on emotions with your children or students, we explain what they are, the most common emotions and why it is important to work them during childhood.

The concept of emotional intelligence is quite modern. It includes the ability to recognize and properly manage our emotions, which makes it especially useful for success in both personal and professional life.

An emotionally intelligent person will be able to recognize the emotions that they have and what is causing them, besides knowing how to govern them properly, having self-control and a good capacity for motivation.

Emotions Activities

The emotional intelligence is important for day to day, to know mastering school stress or work, to know how to negotiate and resolve conflicts, to pay much more in academic or work or to find work as a team.

What are the basic emotions? And the complex ones?

The basic emotions are six: sadness, joy, surprise, fear, anger or anger and disgust or aversion.

Some of the complex emotions are, for example, shame, guilt, love, altruism, jealousy or envy.

The latter have also been considered by many authors as feelings or moods.

At present, there is still no general agreement among all the authors regarding the affective world and although there is sometimes some confusion between the terms, it is true that we can distinguish them.

In a general way, we can say that the basic emotions appear during the first year of life, while the so-called secondary emotions are expressed in the second year of life.

There are differences between them, since the basic emotions are characterized by having a characteristic universal facial pattern, that is, it is the same in all cultures. Secondary emotions, on the other hand, depend on the sociocultural context.

14 activities to work on emotions

1- The dictionary of emotions

The dictionary of emotions and feelings can be a fun activity to do as a family.

As if it were a traveling book, and as a work of reflection and emotional deepening, we will ask the children to take the dictionary home each week.

For this activity to go ahead and be profitable, we need the collaboration of families, so the first step will be to contact them and ask them to be part of the emotions project.

In this way, every week a child will take the dictionary home and choose a different emotion with his family. It is about defining that emotion, drawing it, indicating its symptoms, the biological meaning it has, before what situations it appears, how it could be an adequate management of that emotion, an inadequate one ….

The more information they contribute, the richer the dictionary will be. Once in class, each child can expose the emotion that has worked in class and among all a debate about that emotion can open.

It can be a very interesting activity because it favors the vocabulary of emotions and as the activity progresses, emotions will emerge beyond the basic ones that can greatly enrich the emotional literacy of children.

2- The book of joy or The book of emotions

Through this activity we intend to bring children to the emotion of joy and that can generate a resource to approach when they do not feel so well to remember events that once generated joy.

This activity is useful because it allows us to adapt to the characteristics and age of each child. In this way, to make the book we can use folios of colors and different stationery (markers, wax, pencils …), in addition to anything we want to decorate.

It would be interesting to start the book of joy at the beginning of the course, so that the students have the whole course of the book and can be reflected in it all the happy things that happen to them in their day to day.

Any activity that makes the child happy can be inside the book: from the visit to the cinema or the zoo, to bathe or play with his brother.

To work on emotional literacy thoroughly, we will ask the child to add a sentence under each drawing where he says “I am happy because …”.

A variant of this work is to make “The book of emotions”. We can go working the different emotions in the classroom and go adding the rest of emotions in the book: sadness, anger, disgust …

We will ask the child, in the same way, to write down the different situations that those emotions produce and the reason why he is in that way. Once the child has already mastered it, we can add the consequence, that is, what it does once that emotion has occurred.

This book can be very useful for the child to become aware of the situations that precede what he thinks, the emotion that that thought produces him and how he acts later, so that it is easier to correct the inappropriate behaviors that he may have, helping him to have better emotional management.

3- The jar of calm

The jar of calm can be a useful activity to work the rage and also the stress or nervousness that children present in different situations.

It is a manual activity that we can perform with children. For this, we do not need more than an empty bottle to which we are going to add liquid and glitter. You can add several tablespoons of glue and also dye if you want the liquid of some color.

Its function is to shake the bottle when the child needs to calm down and can take advantage of its benefits from the beginning.

4- The biological function of emotions

We can work with the students the six basic emotions: joy, sadness, fear, disgust, anger and surprise. And since they are basic, they have a biological meaning and a universal characteristic facial pattern.

In this way, we can search for information by distributing the class in six groups and giving each of them one of the basic emotions. We will ask them to look for information about that emotion and what its biological meaning may be.

Then they must expose him to the class. It is an activity that must be carried out with older children, given that the content of the activity is complex.

5- Work emotions with chips

Working with emotions on a day-to-day basis is the most useful thing, but producing chips where emotions are present and can reflect on them can bring us many advantages.

In this way, we can make cards with the different emotions and we will give them to be able to solve them.

These cards can go from faces where they have to guess what emotion is behind, vignettes where they have to elaborate the story, highlight among a list of options those situations where he feels that emotion (for example, things that scare you or that disgust you).

You can add sentences that are true and false sentences about each emotion to see to what extent they understand them, make sentences where they have to fill the gap with emotions … there are many options, you just have to be a little creative !

6- The recipe for emotions

An activity that supports different variants is the recipe for emotions. It is about making a recipe, as if it were cooking, but with different emotions.

For this, we can either design a recipe where the ingredients are different emotions, or choose a single emotion and ask the children to design a recipe where the final result is the emotion we want to work.

7- The emotional box

One of the activities we can do with our children or with our students is the “emotional box”. For this, it is necessary that we have a box, which may be cardboard, plastic or any that we find that may be useful.

A previous activity could be to decorate the box that will serve us to work the emotions, so that students are more involved in the activities we will do with it.

Once we have prepared the box, we can ask the children to make cards with emotions. When we work on emotional intelligence or emotions, one of the fundamental aspects is emotional literacy.

We must ensure that children have a great knowledge and a great vocabulary about emotions. For this, before we can do activities of awareness and knowledge about emotions.

When students already have a more or less extensive vocabulary about emotions, they will be prepared to perform this activity. Obviously, it can adapt to different characteristics and ages, so that, depending on whether they have more or less capacity, we can make more or less cards.

The purpose of the box is to have a place where children express the different emotions they have throughout the day.

In this way, we will ask students, in different situations that produce emotions, to make a card with the name of the emotion and make a drawing that represents it, as well as indicating what has happened.

We must place the emotional box somewhere where the child can see it and can access it whenever he needs it.

In this way, at the end of the week, in the assembly with the children, we can take the box and work among all the situations that have taken place in the classroom, what emotions are behind, how they have been managed and if they could have been carried out otherwise.

8- The jar of positive news

A fun activity that can be done in all ages is the jar of good news. It is an activity that helps us to work happiness with children.

To do this, every time there is any joyful event in the children (whatever is for them joy and want to share), it will be written on a piece of paper and put in a jar that we will have in class for that purpose .

A good time to collect the different positive news can be the assembly, once a week. In this way, once the agreed time has passed (it may be at the end of the quarter), we will sit down together and take out the news jar.

We will read and remember those situations that made us happy once and with all of them, we will make a mural that we will share with families.

9- The emotional story

An activity that can be useful to work the different emotions is to ask them to design a story, a story, where the main character will go through different adventures and different situations where different emotions take place.

For this, we can offer a list of the different emotions we want to work on and we will ask them to develop their imagination and their creativity to elaborate the story.

It can be interesting because they have to stop and think and reflect on each one of those emotions, in what situations we interpret and have those emotions and what happens next.

We will be working in this way the different competences of emotional intelligence.

10- Riddles of emotions

Riddles with emotions can help us teach how to distinguish children the most important characteristics of emotions.

Although we can encourage children, according to their age and level of maturity, to invent them the riddles, if we want to work in a profound way the characteristics of emotions, it is best that we invent them.

For this, you can take the facial features, the function of each of the emotions, the situations, the physical feeling that they produce … any of them will be useful and will help the children! 

11- What are you afraid of?

This dynamic allows us to work on fear with children. For this, we will work on fear first and we will give some example situations where we can be afraid.

Next, we will ask the children to think of situations where they have or have been afraid. We will ask you to write it down and share it with a partner.

We will write it down in adhesive papers and one by one we will comment them out loud, inviting the students to show what they are afraid of, what they feel when they are afraid, etc.

To work on fear (and emotions in general) it is important to attend to the physical signals of the emotions (what I feel) and distinguish them from the emotional part of the emotion (how I feel). This is important in order to achieve a good job in all areas of emotional intelligence.

In addition, the skills of emotional intelligence happen because the person is able to identify also the physical signals produced by our own body and that warn us of the emotion that is behind.

12- The memory of emotions

A memory of emotions can be made with the children. In this way, we can elaborate the memory or we can ask the children to make the drawings that will later be used to carry out this activity.

It is about making “card pairs” with the same emotion (two identical cards that reflect a face with fear, another two that reflect a face with surprise, happiness, anger, sadness and disgust).

For the basic emotions we can use the faces, so that we help the children to work the identification and the understanding of the emotions. When children are small, we can work only with these six emotions.

If we consider that with these 12 cards the game is already too simple, we can add as many emotions as we want, and since the facial expression is not what designates the secondary emotions, we can draw situations that reflect those secondary emotions.

Once we have made the game, it is about shuffling the cards (if we plasticize them will be much better) and put them on the table face down. In turn, it is about each child lifting one of the cards and discovering what emotion is behind, and then looking for the other card that designates the emotion.

In this way, in addition to working with emotions we will be exercising memory.

If we also want to make a variant of this game, we can do, on the one hand, one of the cards with the name of the emotion, the face … and the other card with a situation or something else that reflects the same emotion.

This would be a useful activity to do with older children that the previous game may be too simple.

13- The die of emotions

The dice of the emotions can serve us to realize quantity of games. It is about making a die and on each of the sides we put one of the basic emotions: joy, sadness, disgust, anger, fear and surprise.

Once we have done it and decorated (remember, the facial emotion may be the most useful to represent it, but if you find it too complicated you can do it simply with the word), we can do many different activities.

One of them may be to invent stories or phrases where the child has to use this emotion. Thus, in turns, the dice is thrown and with the emotion that has come out we can invent a story.

Or we can encourage the children to throw the dice and mimic some situation where that emotion is expressed. Or that they are able to argue and look at what situations in their daily lives have felt that emotion.

We can also work out what the inadequate strategies would be to manage those emotions or which ones would be appropriate. The dice can offer us many opportunities and with a little imagination, it can be a very useful and fun game.

14- The domino of emotions

With the domino of emotions we can also have a fun time and can be very useful to work with children emotions. We can encourage children to make their own dominoes or we can make a domino among everyone.

For this, the first thing will be to plan how the chips will be. You, as an adult, must first design a “type card”, such as dominoes, that are white (with two overlapping squares may be sufficient).

Once done, print the size you want to make the dominoes blank cards and design together with the students the different cards with emotions (we can put the names, facial expressions, situations …).

Once it’s done, it’s about playing domino from emotions.

What are emotions?

An emotion is a process that is activated when the organism detects a change. We say that the body tends to homeostasis, that is, to balance, so that when something unexpected happens around us, the body sets in motion a mechanism, the emotion, that warns us about it.

Therefore, we could say that emotion prepares us to react to unexpected events that happen around us. And it is important to keep in mind that all emotions are valid and play an important role in our lives.

Although the emotions have always been in us, since they help us to survive and have a biological meaning, the truth is that the concept of emotional intelligence is quite recent.

By emotional intelligence we understand the ability to recognize and understand, to become aware and to know how to handle the emotions we have and those that people around us have.

Why is it important to work on emotions in childhood?

Emotions are present constantly in any situation that children live (and that adults live). Both at home, at school, with friends … emotions always accompany us.

Children are constantly immersed in emotional exchanges. This makes it especially important to learn to detect and manage emotions appropriately.

Although there is a belief that emotions are “innate” and that often we can not do anything to control them, the truth is that emotional intelligence is a learned construct that can (and should) be taught.

Parents and teachers have a great task ahead in this regard. Studies say that personal and professional success depends, to a large extent, on the person’s emotional intelligence.

Also Read: What is Infantile or Evolutionary Dysphasia?

Emotional intelligence involves helping to detect, understand and manage emotional states appropriately, but also help the child to develop self-control, self-motivation, social skills, empathy or assertiveness.