Recognising and expressing other feelings

The Imaginary Box

Ask the class to sit in a circle. (This game can be played in the classroom or the hall)

Tell them you are going to imagine there is a large box in front of you.
Every time you tell them what you are going to pull out of the box they have to show the appropriate expression on their face.

Somebody may show “shock” when you are going to pull a snake out of the box, while others might express “excitement”.

(The children must feel that it is safe enough to be truthful about how to react. This game could be followed by a discussion on how we should respect that people have different attitudes and feelings to different situations).

The sort of objects that you pull out of the box might include the following: birthday cake, spider, sharp knife, computer, pet animal, bad news in a letter, stranger etc.

Remind the children that you are not just asking them to show a “happy” or “sad” face. Stress that people use all the muscles in their faces and have many different expressions to indicate that they are worried, surprised, greedy, jealous or upset etc.
Ask the children to identify the objects that they are frightened of. How can they help each other when they are frightened?

Statues With Feelings

Choose some atmospheric music.  Ask the children to move around/dance in response to it. When you stop the music call out a “feelings” word. Ask the children to make a statue depicting that feeling. Encourage them to use their whole bodies and not just their faces.

Leave the feeling of being frightened until the end. When the music is playing you could call out different frightening situations, e.g. “You are being chased by a grizzly bear”, “The lights don’t work and you have to creep upstairs in the dark”, “A witch is trying to take you away to her house” etc.

When the music stops they have to take up their “Statues of fear”. So that the children can see what some of the statues look like, ask half the class to sit down to observe the other half who actively participate. Those observing are asked to note any changes in expressions and postures of the statues.

When they look at the statues how does it make them feel? Does it remind them of anything that they may have once felt or experienced?

A discussion may follow which enables the children to share their feelings about the exercise. Draw out that our bodies often “say” far more than our words or expressions. We cannot always hide how we feel. Our feelings often affect our bodies.

The Children observing (or a teacher) could take photos of the children in their statues which could later be printed out.  The children could label the photos with the emotion or feelings that are being expressed.


Paper Plate Faces

Distribute paper plates around the class. Ask the children to draw a sad face on one side and a happy face on the other. The faces could be painted. Attach the plates to sticks and ask each child to complete the sentence:

“I felt happy when…”
“I felt sad when…”

while holding up the appropriate side of their plate.
With older children you could draw on other plates to look at emotions such as anger, hate, worried etc.
Image of 3 expressions (happy, sad, mad)


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This activity will work better in a large space or hall so the children have got room to move around.

In pairs or individually ask the children: when you are told it’s time for bed what are the usual things you do to get ready? Eg. Having a wash, brushing your teeth, looking at a book, holding your favorite toy.  Ask the children to act out/mime their everyday bedtime routine. If they are in pairs they can take it in turns to watch each other’s routine.

Once they’ve practiced their ‘routine’ a couple of times split the group into two. One half of the group can watch a presentation of the others demonstrating their bedtime routines using the music as a backdrop. Afterwards they could talk about what was similar or different to what they do themselves.

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Real or Imaginary Fears

Physical Activity

The following activity/game aims to start the children thinking about the differences between real and imaginary fears.

1. Tell the children that the game they are going to play is called crocodiles.

2. Select one child as the crocodile.

3. The object of the game is for the children to move from one side of the “river bank” – the mats – to the other. Between the mats is “the river”. The children must keep moving until you call out “crocodile”, the crocodile can then catch as many children as she can who are still in the “river”. Children who are touched are out. Increase the number of crocodiles for a quicker finish. Play the game until all are out except one, who will then become the new crocodile.

4. Give the children an opportunity to calm down and catch their breath.

5. Talk with them about their enjoyment of the game and ask them to describe their thoughts and feelings. Draw out the excitement of being chased.

Suggested questions:

  • Was it scary?
  • Why do you think this was so?
  • Was there really a crocodile?

Emphasise that although everyone knew it was a game the thought of being caught and eaten by a crocodile was still quite frightening.

Other games along the same theme include: “Grandma’s Footsteps”, “Sharks and Islands” and “What’s the Time Mr Wolf?”

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Drawing your fears

Drawing, speaking & listening activity

1. Distribute a piece of paper to each child.

2. Ask the children to draw something that scares them on the piece of paper and then fold it.

3. Collect slips in a box or hat and then jumble them up.

4. Re-distribute the slips and ask each child to describe the picture they see before them.

5. The classroom teacher can record the type of fear or anxiety described by the children on a flip-chart e.g. fear of animals, people getting cross, fear of not being collected from nursery etc.

6. Discussion can initially centre on how feeling frightened makes you feel. Ask the children to describe what happens to their body when they are frightened. What happens to the way they move, stand or the expression on their face?
The classroom teacher and the children can thus investigate the way the body reacts when in situations of fear, the effects of adrenaline and the “fight or flight” syndrome.

7. Talk with the children about what helps when they are afraid, upset or anxious. Examples might include someone to talk to, someone to help and support, sitting quietly on your own, being with friends.

8. Ask the children to draw things which may help and construct a wall chart using their responses.

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