Understanding Facial Expressions

As a parent, it sometimes feels like I can experience a whole spectrum of emotions in a single day: from happiness and joy to frustration, anger and sadness. Finally ending off the day in exhaustion. As adults, I think that we can sometimes take the processing and understanding of emotions for granted. It is easy for us to understand how we, and those around us, are feeling through a combination of communication and facial expressions.

Children have to learn how to do this and, clearly, it is a skill that that they will use for the rest of their lives. I have lost count of the number of times one of my girls have had a complete meltdown simply because they don’t know what they are feeling and how to express it. As I have carried on along my journey of parenthood, I have tried my best to help my little ones learn about emotions and facial expressions and that is how I came across the Incredible Mood Bear.

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It is a printable bear with a rotating face (it sounds strange but when you see it you will understand).

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I printed out a copy of the bear for each of my girls and before we got started with the actual emotions, I got them to colour in and decorate their bears.

Once done I assembled the bear as per the instructions and spun round the face, asking them to identify the various facial expressions. My eldest daughter was obviously a bit better at this than my 2-and-a-half-year-old, however they both seemed to enjoy the exercise.

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I then asked them both to emulate the bear’s expressions in the mirror so that they could see exactly what they looked like for real.

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Lastly, we took a couple of my old magazines and paged through them, looking at the various photo shoots and faces. I asked them to identify what the people were feeling and why they could be feeling like that. Being a magazine, most of the faces were happy, but it was a great exercise to get my children’s imaginations going thinking about what could possibly be making these people so happy.

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Learning to recognise and interpret facial expressions plays a huge role in your children’s development and can affect their communication, socialisation and emotional skills. Since introducing the mood bear, in combination with reading magazines and people watching, I have noticed an improvement in my children’s understanding of how people can be feeling. They seem to be more sensitive to what is going on around them. On the downside, the other day my eldest daughter asked me VERY loudly why the lady next to us in the shop aisle was so angry! Oops! To add to that, my 4-year-old now loves coming up to me when she is cross, pointing to her face, and telling me to look at her face and see that it is not happy. It is very difficult to keep a straight face when this happens.

If you can, I urge you to download a copy of the mood bear and try it out with your children. If you can’t, you can draw the shape of a face on a piece of paper and get your children to draw, or stick on, different eyes, mouths, eyebrows etc.… to represent the different emotions.

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I also came across this large dice template that you could use. Simply get your children to find and stick on a different facial expression onto each side and then glue the block together.

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