Teachers are true heroes. They teach our children about the world and skills they will use their entire lives. Many teachers will tell you the same thing: Games are a great way to teach preschoolers about anything. Games engage, entertain, and enthrall children of all ages, especially preschoolers.
Teaching children about their feelings and emotions is important, especially when they’re toddlers or in preschool. Not only do many children love learning and talking about feelings, but it is also proven to lead to greater wellness and success later in life. Here are 5 great games that teach emotional intelligence to kids.
1. Monster Feelings Cards
Our first feelings activity for preschoolers is the exciting Monster Feelings Cards! This game is easy to learn, fun to play, and free to try. What could be better than that? You’ll want a group of at least 4 children for this one and it works best in a classroom or group setting.
The instructions are simple:
—Show everyone each card and have students practice making the face that represents the emotion on the card.
—Give each child a card and tell them they can’t share what’s on their card with anyone else.
—After they understand what’s on their card, everyone should walk around making the funny face that’s on their card!
—Everyone will laugh and giggle, but the goal is to find the other person making the same face and buddy up.
—Once everyone is paired, they should all reveal their cards and if they’ve correctly identified their partner’s emotion, their cards will match.
Ideally, this game will lead to a discussion about how feelings and emotions affect our facial expressions and our body language. Next time you play, you can incorporate even more physical movements into your portrayal of each emotion. This preschool activity will get them started on building their emotional recognition, which is a huge first step towards becoming more emotionally intelligent. Another great activity to build this skill is our next entry on the list!
2. Emotion Wristbands
Another great way to get preschoolers to start exploring emotions is with our very own Emotion Wristbands. They are a fun, versatile way to learn emotional recognition at a very young age. When paired with a Hoppy & Poppie book such as the What We Feel board book or the Not SO Scary board book, they can help bring a preschooler’s favorite tale to life.
Using the zippered pockets on the back of the Hoppy & Poppie PinkCheeks plush, children insert the emotion wristbands that they imagine the characters are feeling. This reinforces the internal nature of emotions, awareness of emotions in others and empathy as part of their make-believe play.
In order to fully benefit from the Emotion Wristband’s educational value, you should help your child pick the wristband that best captures the emotion in the story or that they’re feeling. The options are Happy, Sad, Scared, Excited, Angry, and Calm. As your child learns to recognize emotions within themselves and others, they will hopefully begin to reach for the wristbands on their own and show off their impressive emotional intelligence!
Apart from teaching emotional intelligence to kids, this game starts your child on a journey towards developing empathy. By recognizing the emotions of others and themselves, they can begin to understand how their different actions make other people feel. They will see that compliments make other kids feel happy or that gifts make other kids feel excited! And best of all, these wristbands can be used for any story, not just Hoppy & Poppie classics. So whatever their favorite book is, the reading experience will be enhanced by identifying the emotions on each and every page!
3. Pass the Ice Cream
Sharing is caring and that’s the name of the game with Pass the Ice Cream! Many preschoolers struggle to learn the value of sharing and this game teaches this valuable lesson. Based on the popular book Should I Share My Ice Cream? by Mo Willems, this game requires a bit of setup.
You will need beige cardstock or heavy paper, a black marker, a ruler, clear tape, and plastic balls (like the ones you would find in a ball pit). It also helps immensely if your children have read the aforementioned story, but it is not necessary to fully enjoy the game. Before you start, use the ruler to draw vertical and horizontal lines on one side of the beige cardstock. This will become the outside of your ice cream cones. Roll the paper into cone shapes so that they’re just big enough for the ball to rest right on top (like a scoop of ice cream) and tape them closed. Now you’re ready to start the fun.
If you read the story before playing, you can make the game a lesson in sharing by discussing the importance of sharing and how it makes the other person feel. As I discussed in the previous entry, this is a lesson in empathy and does a great job of describing how kindness and sharing makes other kids feel good!
Once this lesson becomes somewhat clear, put all the kids in a circle. They should take turns asking “Would you like to share my ice cream?” Then, once the other kid says “Yes!” they should delicately pass the ball on to the next child. This is easier said than done with preschoolers, so expect a lot of laughs and cheers to ensue. This game also teaches good manners as kids should practice saying “Thank you” to each other when they’ve successfully passed their ice cream along.
Of course, because of COVID, this game also needs to serve as a lesson in not spreading germs and it should be explained that in real life we don’t pass our ice cream around this way, but instead each get our own individual scoops.
What a treat this game is!
4. Yoga for Kids
Getting preschoolers to sit still for even a second can be a challenge. It can even be difficult for many adults to sit still or take a break from the many distractions available to us. That’s where yoga and mindfulness games for teaching emotional intelligence to kids come in.
Getting preschoolers started on yoga may seem ridiculous to some, but it’s proven to be a huge benefit for preschoolers and school-age children. Yoga in particular improves balance, strength, endurance, and aerobic capacity in children, just to name a few of the physical benefits. This goes along with a whole host of mental benefits too long to list here that show how vital yoga can be at an early age.
So like many other things, the best way to start kids with yoga and get them interested is by making it a fun game. That’s where these downloadable yoga posters come into play. Even though these are advertised for school age children, there are many ways to adapt them for toddlers and preschoolers in a way that will make it understandable and equally beneficial! It’s all about keeping the activities fun and going at an appropriate pace so they can keep up.
For a feelings activity for preschoolers that will inspire them to be calm and thoughtful, you can’t go wrong with yoga. These positions are specifically recommended for bringing your child from an emotional state to a calmer one, but you can have a great time making your own silly poses at home. The possibilities are endless and the results are remarkable so why not start practicing at home with your kids!
Our final entry on the list is a great game to get your kids learning about emotional intelligence. It’s Emotion-oes from Carson Dellosa Education, a play on the beloved game of dominoes.
Instead of matching numbers on each domino, kids will be tasked with matching emotions represented by facial and hand expressions. With large pieces, colorful artwork, and a variety of emotions, this is the perfect game for little ones just becoming familiar with their emotions and feelings.
This take on a classic game will get kids thinking about how they express their emotions and how to recognize those emotions by observing others. This skill is one of the foundations of emotional intelligence and has a whole host of benefits both in school and in adult life. What a great way to get started on such a key skill.
Bonus: Mood Meter
I had to throw this in here as I’ve written about it before, but I decided to use it as a bonus because it’s not necessarily a game on its own. The Mood Meter was developed by Marc Brackett of Yale’s Center for Emotional Intelligence as a way for kids to identify and expand on their emotion vocabulary. To hear him speak about emotions and the Mood Meter himself, check out this link here. This is a great tool for anyone looking to teach emotions and it can be adapted to almost any age group. Some of the larger and more complex versions actually taught me a few new emotions I’d never thought of! Check it out and see what I had to say about it a while back.
Hopefully this list will provide lots of fun and games that can help teach emotional intelligence to your kids. When it comes to developing emotional intelligence at a young age, it’s all about making it fun and interesting and I think these are some of the best activities for preschoolers out there. Let me know which ones are your favorites and if you see any improvements in your child’s emotional intelligence skills. It may take some time but I guarantee these games will help them develop emotion recognition and empathy!