Mood Cards To Print: Help Children Understand Their Emotions

Written by Dr Lucy Russell DClinPsyc CPsychol AFBPsS
Dr Lucy Russell Clinical Psychologist Founder of They Are The Future
Author: Dr Lucy Russell, Clinical Psychologist

In my work as a child clinical psychologist, I regularly turn to visual resources as a good way to engage children and teach important ideas. 

Drawing from positive psychology and cognitive behavioural therapy, I’ve developed these Mood Cards for you to print. They are also known as Emotions Flashcards.

My mood cards, and the practical activities I recommend below, will give you the perfect “jumping off point” to start helping your child better understand their emotions.

side view of a happy six year old girl

Why Mood Cards?

Understanding emotions is a cornerstone of mental health. If a child feels a complex emotion but doesn’t understand it, they can feel overwhelmed, confused and lost.

For young children, emotion cards are a simple and effective way to teach children about their own emotions and the emotions of others.

Using any visual resource makes abstract ideas more concrete. Visual techniques like emotions cards can be particularly effective for autistic children.

Integrating mood cards into daily life builds children’s emotional vocabulary.

This is going to help them in handling difficult moods, improving their social skills, and building relationships.

In other words, mood cards are a practical tool to develop emotional intelligence that they can transfer into real life.

Download Your Mood Cards Here

I hope I have convinced you to try out this great tool!

If you’re ready, download your printable emotion cards here.

Three Ways To Use Your Mood Cards

Here are three unique and fun ways I’ve found to bring my mood cards into your child’s daily learning.

1. Emotion Journal 

Let’s help your child explore their feelings with a simple ‘Daily Emotion Journal’ activity, perfect for winding down each evening.

  1. Set Up the Journal: Provide your child with a personal journal dedicated to exploring their emotions and experiences. Just a simple notebook will do!
  2. Introduce the Emotion Cards: Explain to your child that each of the 32 emotion flashcards represents a different feeling, covering a wide range of emotions from joy to sadness.
  3. Evening Reflection: Establish a routine where, each evening, your child reflects on their day and selects a card that resonates with their most significant feeling or experience.
  4. Discuss and Write: Encourage your child to discuss why they chose that particular feeling, focusing on personal experiences that led to it. If they encountered difficult emotions, guide them through understanding and expressing these feelings in their journal. If your child finds writing difficult they can draw, or record an audio.
  5. Encourage Positive Thinking: While acknowledging all emotions is important, encourage your child to also identify moments of joy or gratitude each day, supporting a positive attitude and outlook. Always validate all feelings though, including “negative” or mixed ones.
  6. Review and Reflect: Regularly review the journal entries together, discussing your child’s emotions and experiences. It will help build a stronger sense of emotional well-being, as your child learns to navigate and make sense of their feelings.

This structured reflection helps children process their day, understand their emotions, and I believe it also leads to a healthier, more positive outlook on life.

little boy and mother chatting

2. Emotion Mapping

My next activity ‘Emotion Mapping,’ is a hands-on activity that offers a fresh and accessible way to discuss different emotions tied to a variety of settings.

  1. Create the Setting: Ask your child to draw a picture of a specific setting where emotions can run high, such as a school performance, sports day, new experiences such as a first day at school, a school trip, or starting a new club.
  2. Select an Emotion: Encourage your child to think about and choose emotion cards that represent how someone might feel in that chosen setting.
  3. Place and Discuss: Have your child place each emotion card on their drawing where they think it fits best, discussing the diverse emotional responses we might have in that situation.
  4. Reflect for Insights: Talk about their choices, asking why they placed each emotion in that spot. This reflection can lead to new insights in a positive way, helping your child understand the complexity of emotions in different settings.

This activity will help your child develop emotional literacy and learn about empathizing with others’ experiences in a variety of settings.

an eight year old boy drawing

3. Story Reflections

Okay, here’s another wonderful activity, ‘Story Reflections’. I love it because children get to explore the emotion’s internal experience within characters from a brief story or video.

  1. Choose a Story: Select a brief story or video with rich, relatable characters. It could be something brand new or a familiar favourite.
  2. Watch or Read Together: Enjoy the story or video with your child, encouraging them to pay close attention to the characters’ emotions.
  3. Discuss Characters’ Feelings: After the story, discuss how various characters might have felt, focusing on the emotion’s internal experience.
  4. Relate to Personal Experiences: Ask your child to relate the characters’ feelings to their own experiences. Talk together about how understanding these emotions can help them approach relationships and be a good friend by recognizing the needs of others.

This activity will help your child develop a deeper understanding of emotions and empathy. This is crucial for building strong, caring relationships.

Just having a go at these activities is an important step. There are lots of other activities you can explore emotions together using the emotions flashcards though.

You are only limited by your imagination!

Mood Cards and Children’s Personal Development: Summary

Exploring complex emotions and various emotional states with our children is key to their personal development, especially if they struggle to understand emotions. 

By introducing mood cards at home (or in educational settings), you’re setting the foundation for a healthy habit of emotional awareness. 

Regular simple practice can have a long-lasting impact on how children understand themselves and relate to others. 

You can use my mood cards to guide your child through their emotional lives, ensuring they grow into empathetic and emotionally intelligent young adults.

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Dr Lucy Russell is a UK clinical psychologist who works with children and families. Her work involves both therapeutic support and autism assessments. She is the Clinical Director of Everlief Child Psychology, and also worked in the National Health Service for many years.

In 2019 Lucy launched They Are The Future, a support website for parents of school-aged children. Through TATF Lucy is passionate about giving practical, manageable strategies to parents who may otherwise struggle to find the support they need.

Lucy is a mum to two teenage children. She lives in Buckinghamshire with her husband, children, rescue dog and three rescue cats. She enjoys caravanning and outdoor living, singing and musical theatre.

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