As children, our learning processes often follow a similar track: start small and simple, and then add detail as our intellectual and physical capabilities increase. For example, once we know the colors of the rainbow, we are more equipped to understand where teal and maroon fit in the color spectrum. The same thing is true when it comes to our understanding of emotions! We need to know the basics like happy, sad, and angry to be able to understand the more complex feelings of surprised, anxious, or elated.
As we get older, we begin to understand how our emotions fit different levels of intensity depending on the situation or mindset that provoked them. My level of happiness at hearing I get my favorite meal for dinner will definitely be different from my level of happiness at hearing I won an all expense paid trip to Disney World. Knowing all of the different intensities of emotion available and what levels match the situations we encounter are integral emotional intelligence skills, even at a young age.
This game will allow kids (and yourself!) to create a safe space for expressing a variety of different emotions and experiment with what it is like to feel them at many different intensities. It can be incredibly fun if noise and movement are encouraged–I’ve seen kids roll around on the ground, jump up and down, do cartwheels, and even play dead. This game is great for revisiting as children mature and learn about emotion, as the complexity can be adapted to fit their needs at every stage.
When you have finished, try out some of these processing questions* to get your kids talking about emotions:
- What did your body feel like when you were acting out each emotion? What were you thinking about?
- What emotion was your favorite to act out? Your least favorite? Why?
- Can you think of some times where you have felt these emotions at different intensities? Or, if you what a more distanced question, Can you imagine some scenarios where someone might feel these different levels of emotion?
- What did it feel like to shake off each emotion after you were done with it? Are there any still here? What can we do to get back to normal?
- What would you say your current emotion and level are?
*Processing questions should always be used with caution. The questions provided are surface level enough that children should be able to answer them easily, but as the adult you should be prepared and equipped to support the child in whatever answers they give. If the child wants to stay surface level, I highly encourage all adult facilitators to listen to the child’s cues and not push them to dig deeper than they are ready for.