Emotion Freeze – Bay Area Discovery Museum

Emotion Freeze

Children will play a game to practice identifying and naming emotions. They’ll make inferences based on reading facial expressions and body language, which are crucial skills for successful social interaction and problem solving.

Materials Required

  • 10-15 index cards
  • 10-15 photos of people feeling different emotions
  • Glue, scissors, and pen
  • Basket, bin, or bag


  1. Prep 10-15 cards for the game. Find photos of people feeling common emotions such as scared, happy, sad, etc. Cut out the photos and glue one on each index card. Label the emotion. Leave the other side of each card blank. Put the cards face down in the basket, bin or bag.
  2. Model how the game will work. First, pick a card without letting the children see what is on it. Act out the emotion on the card with exaggerated facial expressions and body language. For example, if the person is sad, you could hunch your shoulders over, make a big frown, and pretend to cry.
  3. Ask children to guess what emotion you are acting out. When someone guesses, ask him or her to explain how s/he knew. Help them to focus their explanations on what they observe, for example, “I knew you were excited because you smiled, pumped your fist in the air, and jumped up and down!”
  4. Give each child a turn to pick a card and act out the emotion. Remind them not to show the card to anyone else.

Additional Tips

Try these add-on activities:

  • Tell stories, and ask children to imagine how they would feel in that scenario and to act out that emotion. For example, tell the children: It is your first day at a new school. You don’t know anyone there. You missed the bus, so you are late to school and when you arrive you realize you spilled your breakfast all over your shirt. Everyone looks up at you as you walk in the classroom. How do you feel? Ask children to demonstrate moving their body and making a facial expression that would be appropriate in that situation, then have a group conversation about what that emotion is called and why it might be appropriate in that situation.
  • Brainstorm strategies for how to deal with difficult emotions; for example, when you’re feeling mad, try going away by yourself, closing your eyes, and taking five deep breaths.
  • Read related books. Some excellent examples include:
    • Glad Monster, Sad Monster by Ed Emberley and Anne Miranda
    • On Monday When It Rained by Cherryl Kachenmeister
    • The Way I Feel by Jana Cain
    • The Feelings Book by Todd Parr
    • Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes
    • The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
    • When Sophie Gets Angry by Molly Bang

Links to Creativity

Early social-emotional skills are a critical component of future wellness and success (Jones, Greenberg, & Crowley, 2015). Fortunately, like many other skills, social-emotional skills are malleable, and adult support and intervention can help children to develop these essential skills. In this activity, children can practice and develop their social-emotional competencies by attempting to correctly identify observed emotions.

Supporting research includes:

Jones, D. E., Greenberg, M., & Crowley, M. (2015). Early social-emotional functioning and public health: The relationship between kindergarten social competence and future wellness. American Journal of Public Health, 105, 2283-2290.


This activity was contributed by the Bay Area Discovery Museum. ©2016 Bay Area Discovery Museum. For more information and resources see BayAreaDiscoveryMuseum.org

Emotion Freeze

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