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Feelings Faces Activity | Social Emotional Learning

In this activity children will create feelings faces to explore different feelings to build their emotional intelligence... Did you know that including social emotional learning activities when teaching can lead to better academic performance?

For so long, schools focused only on teaching academics, but with more and more research, people are understanding the value in teaching the whole child. Social emotional learning helps kids understand themselves and others, leading to better quality relationships and interactions.

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Feelings Faces sad and surprised

The teacher who cultivates a classroom culture of caring makes students feel welcome, respected, and at home. As a result, in this kind of setting, students are best able to take risks, make mistakes, and learn. Their minds are more open to learning if their basic needs of feeling safe, relaxed, and cared for are met.

RULER and Feeling Faces

The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence has created an effective and systematic way to teach kids about social and emotional intelligence.

Their acronym RULER stands for the 5 skills of emotional intelligence: Recognizing, Understanding, Labeling, Expressing and Regulating. To learn more about RULER you can visit their page:

Parents can improve social emotional learning through the following ways:

  • Recognizing your own feelings and labeling them for your child.
  • Talking about specific feelings and how to achieve them.
  • Narrating your child's behavior using feeling and emotion words.
  • Expressing your own feelings and how they affect your actions.
  • Discussing different strategies for how to deal with certain feelings.

The Feelings Faces activity will help children explore the first three parts of RULER: recognizing, understanding, and labeling.

Feelings Faces Activity

You're going to need Feelings Faces Play Dough Mats for this activity.

Materials: Index cards, play dough, Feelings Faces Mats, and marker

How to play:

1. Start by asking for background knowledge on the topic. For example, ask, "What feelings do you know?" As your child lists off feelings they know, write them down on index cards. When you are done, have your child pick a card from the pile. (Want pre-made cards? Download them at the bottom!)

2. Together try to make faces of that feeling on the Play Dough Feelings Faces Mat. Discussion and guided questions:

  • What makes you feel ______?
  • How do you know that someone is feeling ________?
  • What does your mouth look like when you are ________?

3. If your child is unable to recreate a feeling on the mat, ask them to try to make the face of that feeling, or describe your face when expressing that feeling.

  • What do you notice about my eyes?
  • My eyebrows?
  • My mouth?

When we build feelings on the Feelings Faces Play Dough mats we are deepening our knowledge surrounding that feeling. Only once we understand the feeling and are able to discuss it, can we recognize it when it's "happening" to us and then regulate it, if needed.

Kids who understand their own feelings have more success recognizing and understanding emotions in other people which can help them have more positive interactions and build stronger relationships.

Sad emotion play dough mats

Feelings Faces Printable Chart and Feelings Flashcards:

If your child is having difficulty understanding and labeling their feelings, or the feelings of others, you may want to print out this feelings faces chart. It may also come in handy during the activity to help them describe and create the features that go with each emotion.

Feelings Faces Printable Chart
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These feelings faces flashcards can come in handy in a game of charades, making play-dough feelings faces, or even in a feelings memory matching game. For that last one make sure to print out 2 sets.

Download feelings faces flashcards
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