Help Kids Identify and Express Emotions with “Feelings Match-Up” Game

As I shared in a previous post on an activity called “A Feeling for All Seasons”, I use emotion charts with most of my child and some of my teen clients. I find they help kids to identify and verbally express their emotions, learn to recognize and empathize with others’ emotions, and as a result help children learn how to problem-solve ways to handle their uncomfortable or unpleasant emotions.

Today I wanted to share another activity that counsellors or educators can use to encourage children’s emotional awareness and expression. This game is a variation of a Memory-style game, but instead uses the pictures and labels of a feeling chart. This game can be played with a therapist and a client, a child and his or her parents, a small family, or in small groups in a classroom or group therapy setting. This game or variations could be played with children as young as early elementary age up through the junior grades, or even longer if the child has interest.

You will need:

A printout of the Feelings Match-Up game cards, as shown here:


  1. Print out the Feelings Match-Up game. You will need to print the file double-sided as the game cards have both backs and fronts, or if you wish, you can print only the front by printing pages 1, 3, and 5. Cardstock will work best to ensure that the game cards are durable and ensure they are not see-through.
  2. If desired, laminate the game cards or have them laminated at a retailer that provides these services.
  3. To play the game, spread the cards out face down on the table or floor. There are 27 game cards, including 12 pairs of emotion cards and 3 additional cards: 1 “Miss a Turn” and 2 “Mix remaining cards”. Should the therapist or client desire, these 3 cards could be removed from game-play. Also, depending on the age of the client, the counselor may wish to remove some of the pairs of emotion cards to make for a simpler game.
  4. The first player flips over 2 cards. If the player gets two of the same emotion, he gets to keep that pair of cards. The client also must share about a time when he experienced that emotion. Variations could include describing what that emotion feels like for the client, making that emotional expression himself, or sharing about a time when he saw someone else express that emotion. If the player does not get a match, he flips the cards back over and the other player(s) get a turn.
  5. If a player turns over the “lose a turn” card, the player’s turn is over and the player loses the next turn. Similarly, if a player turns over one of the “Mix Remaining Cards” game cards, the player must shuffle or mix up the cards on the table. The players can decide whether to remove the “lose a turn” or “mix remaining cards” playing cards or return them to game play.
  6. Game play continues until all of the cards are matched up.


Download your set of Feeling Match-Up Cards here. I hope you and your clients or students get lots of use out of them. Feel free to share your favourite ways of encouraging emotional expression with your students or clients in the comments.

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Carey EmmersonHelp Kids Identify and Express Emotions with “Feelings Match-Up” Game

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