Learning to identify and label emotions is a critical step in developing self regulation. This simple printable for teaching feelings gets kids thinking about emotions and the world around them, while also teaching that different people experience different situations differently.
One of the many things that makes parenting challenging is that different children experience life differently. This means that you can’t treat each child in an identical-to-you way, because each child won’t experience that treatment identically. Some of my children find humor to be a great help in stressful situations; others want a quiet, serious approach. A child might appreciate humor sometimes, but need a quieter approach when they are tired.
I want my children to understand that different people feel different emotions at different intensities in different sitiuations. This week’s Virtual Book Club for Kids pick is Sam Mercer’s I Was So Mad. It’s a great book for introducing this idea, and I created a simple printable to extend the conversation.
Teaching Feelings with a Sensory Emotional Intelligence Activity
The easiest way to think through a high-emotion situation is to start by identifying your emotions, and those of the people around you. I created this simple printable that uses nature to explore emotions in a neutral way.
For my printable, I picked nine photos that evoked the following emotions to me: a sensitive (prickly) plant, a curious puppy, a morose black and white rain scene, a fragile/broken flower, a hopeful flower bud, a hatched egg ready for change, a contented sleeping kitten, a mildly spooky night scene, and a joyful beach sunrise.
I showed the photos to my family and asked them what they thought of when they saw these pictures. As I expected, they experienced a range of emotions (note that some family members chose not to associate an emotion with some of the photos; I told them that was fine). I wrote down their own words as they looked at each photo.
- 10-year-old son: lonely, sad
- 11-year-old daughter: desolate
- Dad: uncomfortable
- 8-year-old daughter: happiness
- Dad: stressed
- 10-year-old son: companionship
- 11-year-old daughter: comfort
We have a four-month-old puppy, and their reactions to this photo mirror their general reactions to the dog (although my husband really is quite fond of our dog!)
Black and White Rainy Day
- 10-year-old son: calm
- Dad: calm
- 11-year-old daughter: tired, gloomy
- Dad: calm
- 11-year-old daughter: broken, fragile
- 10-year-old son: sad
- 8-year-old daughter: sad
- 5-year-old daughter: happy because it’s pretty
- Dad: hopeful, peaceful
- 11-year-old daughter: hopeful, patient, kind
- 10-year-old son: hopeful
I do wonder if these responses were influenced by the broken flower being placed right next to the new one!
- Dad: lost
- 11-year-old daughter: lost, broken
- 10-year-old son: lost
- 8-year-old daughter: happy
- 11-year-old daughter: content and sleepy
- Dad: groggy
- 10-year-old son: tired
- 5-year-old daughter: happy because it’s cute
- 5-year-old daughter: scary
- 10-year-old son: scared
- Dad: cold
- 11-year-old daughter: trapped in a nightmare
- 11-year-old daughter: hopeful, a feeling of newness
- 5-year-old: happy
- 10-year-old happy, awake (alert)
- Dad: peaceful
I loved seeing the range of responses even when we were all sitting around the table doing this together. I would love to try it with different photos where they weren’t hearing one another’s answers. It also makes a great writing assignment!
Teaching How Environment Impacts Feelings
Spending time in nature and with other living creatures – people as well as animals – is my favorite way to mindfully transform my own moods. Hopefully this activity got my children started thinking about how interactions and environments impact them, and how an intentional environment change can transform emotions.
More Strategies for Teaching Feelings
Here are some of my other favorite ways to build emotional intelligence:
- Simple Book Inspired Lesson About Emotions
- Using Picture Books to Build Emotional Intelligence
- Raising Emotionally Intelligent Children
- Activities to Help Kids Calm Down and Stay Calm
- Unique Strategies to Help Your Child’s Self-Regulation
- Teaching Young Children Emotional Intelligence