My kids are always curious about emojis / 表情符号 / 表情符號 (biǎoqíng fúhào), because they see me texting those yellow faces with my husband and friends! While emojis are abstract, especially for young children, emoji activities have been a fun ways to normalize talking about various emotions in our family. I’m excited to share the ideas we tried and look forward to hearing what your children or students think!
Discussing emotions bilingually in English and Chinese
Since we want our kids to grow up multilingual, we’re teaching them how to identify their emotions in both English and Chinese. During my childhood with traditional Chinese parents, feelings weren’t really discussed. Therefore, I’ve been learning how to translate my feelings from English to Mandarin Chinese along with my children.
If anyone else is in the same boat, here are translations of common emotions in simplified Chinese, traditional Chinese, Hanyu Pinyin, and English. And if you’re fluent in Chinese and have any suggestions, please kindly leave them in the comments so we can all learn from you!
- 快乐 / 快樂 (kuàilè / happy, joyful, cheerful)
- 高兴 / 高興 (gāoxìng / happy, glad)
- 兴奋 / 興奮 (xīngfèn / excited)
- 惊讶 / 驚訝 (jīngyà / surprised)
- 紧张 / 緊張 (jǐnzhāng / nervous)
- 安静 / 安靜 (ānjìng / quiet)
- 难过 / 難過 (nánguò / sad)
- 困惑 (kùnhuò / confused)
- 伤心 / 傷心(shāngxīn / sad)
- 难过 / 難過 (nánguò / sad)
- 沮丧 / 沮喪 (jǔsàng / downcast, depressed)
- 泪泪 / 淚淚 (lèi lèi / teary)
- 生气 / 生氣 (shēngqì / angry)
- 没脸 / 沒臉 (méiliǎn / embarrassed, ashamed)
- 贪心 / 貪心 (tānxīn / greedy)
- 累 (lèi / tired)
Fun emoji emotions activities for kids
Here are 5 simple emoji emotions activities that we have tried. As with any activity on this blog, please don’t feel like you need to do all of them! See what fits your child’s interests and learning level.
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Spinning emoji emotions wheel – free printable in English and Chinese
This is one of my daughter’s favorite printables! She had fun spinning the emoji wheel and seeing what expression would be revealed!
When she first saw the missing mouth for 安静 / 安靜 (ānjìng / quiet), she was initially puzzled and asked “为什么没有嘴巴? / 為什麼沒有嘴巴? (Wèishéme méiyǒu zuǐbā / Why is there no mouth)?” at least a dozen times! I debated about what to put for that expression, and I thought it would be fun to see what my daughter would say if there was nothing! She memorized the Chinese word 安静 / 安靜 so quickly after asking about it so many times!
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- Emoji wheel template:in simplified Chinese, traditional Chinese, and English
- Laminating pouches
- Paper fastener
- Yellow cardstock
- X-ACTO knife
How to make the spinning emoji wheel
- Print templates on yellow cardstock. Note that cardstock is recommended as regular printer paper is too thin and transparent (see the sad face in the above photo!)
- Laminate each page
- Cut out each circle
- Cut out triangle (this will be the opening for the mouth)
- Cut a slit in the center of each circle
- Insert paper fastener in the center of the circles indicated by light gray circle
*Please note that a prior version of this printable included 亲热, a modern Chinese slang term. I learned from many of my fluent bilingual readers that 亲热 refers to sexual intimacy between adults! It’s interesting how language evolves over generations and varies across regions, as my older relatives were not aware of this!
Emoji easel messages and matching activities
Since my children are naturally curious to see what I draw and write, I’ve been leaving different doodles and messages on the easel in their play area. My daughter thought my emoji messages were so hilarious that she started requesting specific emojis and asked me to surprise her with their 2-sentence story! Needless to say, this was a really effective way to pique her motivation for reading.
- We love our Melissa and Doug easel!
- Dry erase markers – yellow is hard to find, but it’s part of this Amazon Basics set!)
- Draw an emoji face with a related sentence. Ask the child to guess what happened and why. This could be a fun opportunity to make up a story!
- Draw a different face each day – my daughter was asking me to surprise her everyday for a week, and then she started making requests!
- Create a matching game with emojis on one size and characters on the other
Here’s a video of the matching game:
Healthy emoji clementine snacks
With Sharpie markers, we drew emoji on clementines to create a healthy and allergy-safe snack with friends. Big thanks to wooloo.ca for the brilliant idea; my kids and their friends absolutely adored these! Tip: make sure the clementines are at room temperature. If you put them in the fridge and take them out, the condensation will affect the ability for your marker color to stay on the clementines.
However, the subsequent matching activity was totally unnecessary and too short-lived for the effort. Just want to keep it real as I know you are busy parents and teachers, too!
Emoji matching activity with craft sticks and cardboard slots
For this emoji activity, we used the different emoji faces from the above activity and stuck them onto sticks so that they were like little emoji people! For print exposure, I wrote the corresponding Chinese names for each emotion on the craft stick and also on corresponding slots that I cut into cardboard.
Since my kids are obsessed with poking things, this activity harnesses that natural interest and strengthens those fine motor skills! My favorite part of setting up these activity prompts is seeing what direction my kids go with them. With my kids’ imagination, they decided that the labeled cardboard slots were like assigned seats on a bus for the emojis!
- Craft sticks
- Construction paper
- Black pen
- Large circle punch or scissors plus small circle template
- Utility knife
How to set up emoji matching activity
- Cut circles
- Draw faces on each circle: black pen for the brows, eyes, and mouth; crayon for tears and blushing
- Label craft stick with emotion name
- Affix faces to corresponding stick
- Cut slits into cardboard
- Write emotion name next to slot
- Match emoji stick with corresponding slot
Bilingual paper plate emoji activity
Last but not least, my kids had fun playing with these paper plate emojis! After a recent party, we had lots of extra paper plates left over. For anyone planning an emoji-themed birthday party, you could use these emoji paper plates as decorations! Otherwise, I prefer not to be wasteful and don’t recommend getting a pack of paper plates just for this one activity.
How to set up paper plate emojis
- Draw faces on each plate
- Label emotion on back of plate
- Playing & learning time!
- Matching words game: Turn paper plate over and match characters on emoji stick to characters on back of plate. Then turn over plate to see if the faces match. We turned this a bilingual matching game by writing Korean and Chinese names on the back of the plates. (Korean is my kids’ third language that they’re learning from our nanny).
- Matching faces game: For little ones who are too young to read, they can have fun with matching the faces!
- Silly faces game: Pick an emoji and use it as a “mask” and act out according to the emotion!
Have you tried any of these activities?
If you try this activity, please let us know in the comments below! What age(s) are your kid(s) and how did it go? We’d love to hear about your learning experience!
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