How do they feel?

This activity takes familiar characters, and uses them to explore emotions and children's progress in a surprisingly wide range of areas.
What you will need:

  • Pictures of familiar characters expressing different emotions like these (Photocopying pages from books may be easiest)
  • Enough plain paper to cover a table; get a big roll of it here
  • Simple emotion flashcards; like these
  • Age appropriate mark making tools
  • Sellotape; restock here

Preparing the activity

After covering a table with blank paper, use the sellotape to secure character pictures around the edge. In some cases, stick characters in a space on their own, and in others you can combine characters together. These combinations will be the inspiration for children to imagine a conversation between the different characters, so bear this in mind as you prepare. For example, you could combine a picture of Lighting McQueen with one of Peppa & family beside their broken down car.

Above each of the characters, draw some large speech bubbles. These should be big enough for older children to write in, and younger children to either draw or stick the emotion flashcards.


Doing the activity:

Younger children

This activity can work well with children as young as two years old. With this age group, begin by getting the children to talk about the characters they recognise on the table.  Once they've identified them all, encourage the children to look more closely at the characters. The aim is for the children to be able to match the emotion flashcards with the emotions shown by the characters by placing a flashcard in the speech bubble. As children select different emotion cards, support them in talking about why the characters might feel the way they do, and what we might do about it. For example, "you're right, Peppa does look sad. I wonder how we could make her feel better?".

Preschool children

Where you are doing this activity with older children, you can extend it to introduce mark making and early writing. Begin by challenging children to draw faces in the speech bubbles to reflect the emotions of the characters, instead of using the cards. 

The final extension of the activity is to move from drawing, to writing. Children who are just beginning to try writing can be shown clear examples of simple emotions such as "sad" and "happy" to copy. Others who are able to form letters confidently can be challenged to write short sentences with support as necessary.

Tracking the activity:

22 - 36 months

Personal, Social & Emotional Development, Managing Feelings & Behaviour; "Can express feelings such as sad, happy, cross, scared, worried"

Personal, Social & Emotional Development, Managing Feelings & Behaviour; "Responds to the feelings of others"

Physical Development, Moving & Handling; "Beginning to use tripod grip to hold writing tools"

30 - 50 months

Personal, Social & Emotional Development, Managing & Feelings & Behaviour; "Aware of own feelings, and knows that some actions andwords can hurt others’ feelings"

Expressive Arts & Design, Being Imaginative; "Builds stories around toys, eg. farm animals needing rescue from an armchair cliff"

Literacy, Writing; "Sometimes gives meaning to marks they make as they draw and paint"

Literacy, Reading; "Describes main story settings, events & principal characters"

Physical Development, Moving & Handling; "Holds pencil between thumb and two fingers, no longer using whole-hand grasp"

Physical Development, Moving & Handling; "Holds pencil near point between first two fingers and thumb and uses it with good control"

40 - 60+ months

Literacy, Writing; "Gives meaning to marks they make as they draw, write & paint"

Literacy, Writing; "Links sounds to letters, naming and sounding the letters of the alphabet"

Literacy, Writing; "Uses some clearly identifiable letters to communicate meaning, representing some sounds correctly and in sequence"

Literacy, Writing; "Writes own name and other things such as labels and captions"

Literacy, Writing; "Attempts to write short sentences in meaningful contexts"

Physical Development, Moving & Handling; "Uses a pencil and holds it effectively to form recognisable letters, most of which are correctly formed"






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