Emotion Cards

Our bedtime routine is always one of the highlights of my day. It’s when we come together as a family and talk about the highs and lows of our day. Each night we follow a specific routine of bath, prayers followed by one small activity to help us connect. Some of the activities we choose from are, talking about our favourite part, what we are thankful for, and the most popular one in our household is picking emotion cards.

The emotion cards for us started years ago and all began out of my frustration of the one word responses from my kids of “fine” or “good” when asking them about their day. I thought to myself, what other way can I ask my kids about their day without actually saying “how was your day?” Of course I would follow up by asking, what they did in school, and if I was lucky and they would actually give me a play by play of their day from start to finish. As they talked about their days something that caught my attention was the many facial expressions they had when describing different parts. Some expressions were of pure excitement, finding out where their next field trip was going to be, getting invited to a friends birthday, learning about something they found interesting, or winning the hymn sing trophy – which seems to be a big deal, at least in my house. :) Other expressions appeared more sad, or upset when they would tell me about “issues” they had in school. These issues being, trouble with friends during recess, feeling confused about something they were learning or if they were feeling tired or sick at school. These facial expressions gave me the idea of then asking the question, “tell me about one emotion that stood out for you today and why.” This question led to all sorts of discussions and to my surprise I actually learned more about what went on in their day. At first this activity was challenging especially for Amelia being 3 at the time not really having the vocabulary to describe every feeling she felt so I decided to take scrap pieces of paper and drew different faces on each one. I would lay them all out and ask the kids to pick one emotion they felt and talk about it. In the beginning the kids migrated towards the more positive feelings like “happy” or “loved” because after all it is easier to talk about the good things, but now after a few years, the kids are more comfortable sharing some really tough feelings. This is music to my ears because in my profession being a psychiatric nurse, identifying, understanding and managing feelings (self-regulation) are so important to have successful relationships. My hope is that they will continue to feel comfortable talking about the hard things especially because I know that being an adolescent is a whole new world of confusing emotions.

Like everything, if I find something that works for me to make parenting a bit easier, and more importantly that helps me connect more with my littles, I like to share. Over the last 6 months I recorded the most common emotions my kids identified and created a set of 20 emotion cards to help littles express their feelings. My mission with theses cards is to:

Identify and express emotions:

Naming and identifying emotions helps young children develop the vocabulary to talk about how they feel.

Manage behaviour:

Behind every behaviour is a feeling and helping children identify their feelings can provide insight into what is driving their behaviour.

Develop empathy:

Empathy helps children gain perspective on what someone else is going through. Empathy can also help build tolerance of others promoting deeper and stronger relationships. Remember the best way to promote empathy is to model empathy. Create a safe place for your child to talk about their feelings and make them feel heard.

Activities using Emotion Cards:

Age 2+

  • Lay out all of the cards and have your child turn the cards over and help them name each emotion.
  • Have your child choose an emotion an see if they can find the opposite emotion. ie happy and sad

Age 4+

  • Lay out all of the cards and have your child pick one emotion that stood out for them that day and why?
  • Have your child pick out an emotion card and ask them how they acted when they felt this emotion. Did they have any physical feelings associated with this emotion? ie. heart beating faster, breathing faster, tummy ache, dizziness, more tired, more sleepy?
  • Choose an emotion card and ask your child what triggers this emotion for them.
  • Have your child pick an emotion card and get them to think of an example of when someone else felt that way. How did your child respond? Talk about other things you could do when someone feels this way.

I am hoping these emotions will help create the opportunity to open up more conversation and connection with your littles.

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