Image by: Ian Muttoo

Emotional Animals

Age Range
3-8 yrs
Setup Time
5 minutes!
Setup Location

Parents naturally want their children to lead happy, successful lives. When parents observe frequent temper outbursts and notice their child’s inability to play well with others, they worry that those behaviors will interfere with their child’s present or future success. Certainly we know that an individual’s abilities to manage emotions and get along with others are important factors in success at school and work.

The first step is helping children recognize and name their feelings. Young children typically “act out” their feelings. Stomping their feet, slamming the door, yelling, crying, pouting and withdrawing are typical ways children act out feelings and communicate different degrees of different emotions. Helping children distinguish between feelings and actions is an important step in emotional development. In Emotional Intelligence Daniel Goleman states, “All emotions are, in essence, impulses to act.” It is important to teach children that all of their feelings (impulses) are okay. Let them know that even parents, caregivers and teachers sometimes feel sad, angry, worried, frustrated, scared, annoyed, or nervous.

Children develop emotional security and positive social skills in an atmosphere of positive regard with fair and consistent limits and consequences. Noticing your child’s positive behaviors, praising her accomplishments, listening to his accounts of the day, demonstrating patience when she makes a mistake, encouraging his talents and interests, showing consideration for his or her feelings, loving unconditionally – these are ways your child will develop into a secure, loving and resilient individual.

This is a great activity to help children recognize, understand and handle their emotions!


  1. Make 2 square dice (you can use 2 unfinished wood square blocks and paint them with some craft store paint or make cardboard dice)

  2. Pick out some emotions to write on one of your dice. There are four basic emotions, from which most other emotions come: mad, sad, happy and scared. You can also pick from a list of emotions (hurt, joyful, ashamed, shy, frustrated, silly, lonely etc.). Just think about which feelings or states you’d want to teach your child(ren) about and write on the 6 sides of one cube

  3. Next, pick six animals that are relatively easy to mimic (Example: cat, dog, monkey, cow, mouse and elephant/bird)

  4. Have the child roll both the dice and then act out the combination!

  5. This game can also be taken a step further, depending on your child’s readiness to explore emotions deeper. For instance, when your child acts out a mad animal, you can talk about the best ways to handle anger. Put it in terms of how an animal might react because young children tend to relate well to animals

Disclaimer: This presents an overview of child development. It is important to keep in mind that the time frames presented are averages and some children may achieve various developmental milestones earlier or later than the average but still be within the normal range of development. This information is presented to help parents understand, at a high level, what to expect from their child. Any questions/concerns you may have about your child’s development should be shared with your doctor.