Three Games To Teach Children About Feelings

[Click here for the French version]

Emotions play an important role in school bullying situations. Studies have shown that children who have difficulty recognizing their emotions, labelling and expressing their feelings were more likely to be subjected to violence. Similarly those who have trouble understanding or feeling what another person is experiencing and who have difficulty placing themselves in someone’s position are more likely to be violent and to become bullies. Developing empathy, emotional skills and sense of respect for others in early childhood is therefore necessary in learning about life within society and in fighting school violence. In this article, I will present three games that teachers can use to teach children about feelings and to develop their emotional and social skills.

1) Jeu des trois figures

Jeu des trois figuresThree Figures Game –  is a theatrical activity created in 2007 by the French psychoanalyst and psychiatrist Serge Tisseron, and usually played in primary school. The three figures refer to the three main characters which are often found in the stories invented by children: the bad guy (bully, robber), the victim, and a third person who can be a witness or a saviour (policeman, superhero). First of all, the teacher asks the pupils to talk about images they saw on TV (in a movie or in a series) and which impressed them (for good or bad reasons). Then he/she asks them to make up their own story and write a scenario that includes the three characters. Each pupil will play each of the three roles in order to experience what it is like to be a victim, to be a bully, and to be the saviour. Usual bullies become bullied for just a moment, and vice versa. They learn how to put themselves in someone else’s shoes, which increases their empathic concern.

2) Feelings

Feelings is a board game designed by a multidisciplinary team – including the French child psychiatrist Nicole Catheline. It aims to lead children to share and talk about their feelings from given situations. The game is played by two teams of two players. The first team draws a card on which a “situation” is written (e.g. “Integration of physically disabled children into mainstream schools”) and reads it aloud. Each player of the second team must guess what his/her partner is feeling. To do it, they have to use an “emotion card” (e.g. “I am worried”, “I am disgusted”, “I am happy”). If they both find the right “answer”, they score a point. They also have to explain why they feel that way (“I am worried because…”). To avoid overflowing and ensure that ideas flow freely, the presence of an adult is required.

3) Valeurs en main

Valeurs en main is a card game based on Happy Families and designed by Willy Pierre, the president of the French associations Les Parents and You Are Heroes. The object is to collect complete families. Four families are “nice” (Respect, Mutual Assistance, Wisdom, Communication), while three others are “bad” (Abandonment, Corruption, Sentence). The game consists of asking a specific player for a specific card from a family. There is no Mister, no Master, no Miss, but “values” linked to each family: ‘In the Mutual Assistance Family, do you have Solidarity?’, ‘In the Wisdom Family, do you have Patience?’. Every time a child collect a card, the adult – whose presence is necessary – asks him/her a question: “What does Patience mean?”, “Have you ever helped someone?”, “Have you ever been disrespectful of somebody?”. It aims to lead him/her to talk about his/her past experiences, both positive and negative, and about what he/she felt. Moreover a philosophical quote is written on the back of the cards : “Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power” (Lao Tzu), “What scares me most is not the oppression of the wicked but the indifference of the good” (Martin Luther King). A journey through times and cultures!


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