Emotion Flashcards

Emotion Flashcards are a great and versatile tool for teaching basic emotion vocabulary. You can find lots of emotion cards online and in parent-teacher resource stores. You can even have fun creating your own by taking and printing pictures of your child and family members acting out different emotions. 

Suggestions for use:

Rule #1 - Make it fun! The most important thing to remember about using emotion flashcards, or teaching emotion skills in general, is to keep it fun! We learn best through play. These cards are not meant to be used as a test or quiz. 

Emotion Naming. This is the most simple and introductory use of the cards. Simply spend time together looking at the faces and naming the emotions, much like you would a storybook. This builds both emotion recognition and language skills! For children who are not yet verbal or don't use verbal communication, you may do all the talking. For children who are learning to talk, you might encourage them to repeat the emotion words back to you. 

 "This boy looks happy. Can you say happy?" 

You might extend it further by talking about what you see. What is it about the person's facial expression or body language that shows what they are feeling?

"This girl is frowning. I think she must be sad."

"She has her arms crossed and her eyebrows are furled. I think she must be mad." 

Making Emotion Faces. Take turns making the faces on the cards to each other. Be willing to get silly and have fun. 

"This is a calm face [demonstrate a calm face]. Now you show me calm..."

Emotion Charades. Take turns drawing a card and acting out the faces. See if the other person can guess the emotion. Don't get caught up in the nuances of the words. It doesn't really matter if the emotion is "happy" or "silly." As long as they are in the ballpark, especially at first. If their answer surprises you, use it as an opportunity to explore the emotion more.

"Oh! You think that looks like a mad face. Can you tell me more about that?" 

Emotion Hunt. Set out a few cards at a time. For young children, or those who need more support, start with just two cards. Ask them to point to the emotion as you call it out. Add more cards to the array as they are able. This is particularly useful for people who use alternative communication strategies such as picture exchange or an AAC device. 

Conversation Starters. These cards can also be used as conversation starters to talk about emotions. Use it as an opportunity to find out more about their emotional world and to share your own. This helps to normalize having emotions - especially strong or difficult emotions. It can be very comforting to learn that caregivers also feel sad or scared sometimes. It is also a great way to talk about coping strategies.

Here are a few prompts you might use. 

  • Show me what you look like when you feel ____?

    • Role play facial expressions and body language. Take turns making faces/gestures.

  • Where in your body do you feel ___? 

    • Do they feel tension in their muscles? Funny feeling in their tummy? Hot or cold? Shaky? Heart beating fast? Share where you feel your emotions with them.

  • When was the last time you felt ___?

    • Take turns sharing a time when you and they felt this way. What did you do in that situation? What went well? What could have gone better?

  • What are some things that make you feel ___?

    • Share some situations that often bring up these feelings? What are some things you can do to prepare or make them easier?

  • What can you do when you feel ___?

    • What are some ways to feel better. Share what works for you. Ask what helps them and if there are some new things they might try.

  • Who can you talk to when you feel ___?

    • Who feels safe to talk to about these feelings, or if they are happy feelings, who would they want to share the feelings with?

Key Messages

However you use the cards, it is important to remember the key messages of Emotion Coaching: 

All Emotions are Okay.
Everyone Feels This Way Sometimes.
We Can Learn Ways to Feel and Do Better.

Emotion Flashcards Printables

We've created a free set featuring youth and young adults with Down syndrome! You can view them as an online slideshow on your phone, or print and cut them out on sturdy card stock. 

Click here to download a PDF of the Emotion Flashcards - 1 per page.

Click here to download a PDF of the Emotion Flashcards - 4 per page.

Emotion Flashcards - Filipino

Emotion Flashcards - Vietnamese