Why we love The Faces Game

Emotional literacy is the ability to name and recognise different emotions and this is actually really important in being able to manage our reactions. It can also help us to better understand and be there for others.

This game builds emotional literacy by encouraging tamariki to think about, name and share different emotions.

What to do

For teachers we created this handy faces worksheet, but it's super easy to recreate if you don't have a printer and kids will love drawing these emojis!

For your children's copies, remove the word and stick with the facial expression only.

For younger kids, this activity can be easily adapted just reduce the amount of faces/expressions from the game to around four (perhaps 'happy', 'sad', 'angry' and 'worried'), then add in the remaining five faces and expressions over time. This way you see them building their emotional literacy!

Once you've all copied out your faces, gently discuss any emotions that your kids may not be that familiar with.

  • Ask to see what their face looks like when they feel this way! And, show them yours!
  • Check in with one or two of the expressions (emojis) and ask how this guy might be feeling?
  • What’s a time when we've felt this way? (No judgment! Hehe!)

For the game gather up their set of face cards and lay them out in front of them. When you read out one of the 'situation' from below children choose the emoji face that best describes how they might feel in that situation.

Older kids may like to hold up more than one card, to show mixed emotions.

Start each statement off with: “How would you feel if…”

  • A friend gave you an invitation to their birthday?
  • You dropped your ice cream and couldn’t eat it?
  • Someone funny read you a great story?
  • A classmate became angry and hit you?
  • You got an award for your work at school?
  • Someone told you off for making a mess?
  • You had a sore tummy?
  • You were asked to do something you’re really good at?
  • You fell over in front of everyone?
  • Someone stole your favourite toy/possession?
  • An adult asked you to do something you didn’t want to do?
  • A friend asked you to do something you didn’t want to do?
  • You arrived somewhere new and didn’t know anyone?
  • You were playing a favourite game with friends?
  • You didn’t understand a question?
  • You won a big holiday to your favourite place?

End the game on a high and keep the cards for another round sometime.

Sometimes your children might show the same emotion in different ways. For example, some people giggle when they’re embarrassed, while others go very quiet and look away. Or if we give someone a present, we might expect them to be happy, but they may not show this if they are surprised or moved.

Emotions can be complicated, but they're always the right one for the circumstance - even if they're different across different people.

Ways to use the Faces Game everyday

  • Away from this game, encourage your children to share their emotions when telling stories and expressing themselves in every day life.
  • Comment on how you're feeling and what you might do if you're frustrated or annoyed, to calm down (deep breaths, move away from the situation, go outside)
  • Add more of your own cards and emotions - disgusted, serene, aroha, optimistic...
  • Another great way to extend children's emotional literacy and understanding is to follow books together by lose the words of the book and concentrate on the pictures, curiously noticing how the characters may be feeling through the book. Kids often love this and it's a great way to get through the books that as adults, we hate or are totally bored with!