Expressing Emotions and Feelings

Emotions play an important role in social interactions and communication and it's important for every individual to be able to understand and express their emotions.  Teaching your child to express emotions is as important as it is complicated to teach. Feelings and emotions are a complex and abstract concept which makes it difficult to teach. They are internal states of mind which needs to be experienced and felt by the child, and hence are challenging to "teach" as concepts. 

Give them experiences to help them understand the various emotions. When you talk about the child's emotions during the experience. This will help the child associate the emotion with that experience and will help them identify and understand the concept better. 

Vocabulary in Avaz

Basic > feelings

happy, sad, angry, sick, hungry, sleepy, bored, scared

Note: The vocabulary organization shown below is as per Avaz India app. 

Advanced > feel

    > happy, sad, angry, upset, excited, bored, funny, scared, lazy, sick, hungry, sleepy, tired, etc.

How to teach emotions

Teaching HAPPY

How to teach 

  1. Introduce the icons on the device for 'happy’ and 'sad’ to start with, and then gradually introduce more words like 'madand 'pain' etc. See below for how to hide the remaining icons that are present in the screen. 
  2. Introduce the emotions while the child is experiencing it in real-life situations. While the child is happy over something, e.g. getting their favourite food like ice-cream, you can model the word happy. You can say "I can see you smiling when you get your favourite ice-cream. You are happy" while tapping on the word happy in Avaz and stressing on the word happy and showing the child the word as you tap on it. If you need help to know how to model the word, click here to see - How to model words in Avaz? 
  3. Model the word several times during the day during explaining the situation and reason for the emotion to help them connect and associate the experience with the feeling. E.g. We are happy when something happens. You can talk about your observation of your child (called Verbal referencing).  E.g. "I see you smiling. Looks like you are happy you got an ice cream." It is important to state what you see and explain what that means.
    • "Mama is happy when you finish your food. That is why I am smiling"
    • "You like going to the park. It makes you happy." 
    • "This song makes me happy. I like to dance when I hear it".
    • "You are happy when you win a game."
    • "Your dad is watching his favourite TV show. It makes him happy."
    • "Your sister is having fun with her friends. She is happy."
    • "I am so happy we are going to meet grandma soon".
  4. Encourage the child to express their emotions at appropriate times by choosing the appropriate icon on Avaz. If the child doesn’t tap on the appropriate word, use prompting strategies to guide them to the correct response. 
  5. It's important to note that even if the child doesn't respond after prompting, it's perfectly ok to continue to model as much as possible and move on. It can take many sessions of modelling before the learner will use a modelled word or utterance.
  6. Repeat this everyday and on several occasions through the day. 
  7. Talk about emotions as displayed by other members of the family through the day.Create opportunities for different members of the family to express various emotions at appropriate times and use Avaz to point to the appropriate symbols.
  8. Make them independent by withdrawing the prompt gradually, using prompting strategies

Means to teach emotions

You can teach the various emotions through various means: 

1. Picture cards 

Use picture cards / flash cards that you may, to talk about various emotions. Explain how these emotions are displayed. 

Example: HAPPY

Show different pictures of happy faces and explain how we express happiness through various kinds of body language - When we are happy we are smiling and laughing, and showing our teeth. When we are happy we are dancing, or singing. etc.  

2. Facial gestures

Show with your own facial gestures and expressions the various emotions. Express it through your eyes (enlarged eyes for anger), eyebrows (narrowed eyebrows for anger), mouth( pouting for sadness) etc. 

3. Own photos

Take your child's photo when they are happy and smiling and explain it to them to help them associate the "feeling" with the emotion and the word. E.g.

"I can see you are smiling when you are playing with the balloon. You look happy!"

4. Story-telling through books 

Choose stories that display emotions. E.g. hare and tortoise - "See the hare - he must be feeling sad when he lost the race. Look at the tortoise - he must be happy because he won."

5. Discuss emotions while watching TV shows or videos

Talk about the emotions of the characters while watching the shows together. Choose shows that display emotions. 

6. Take videos 

Take a video of yourself or other members of the family while they are happy - e.g. during their birthday, cake cutting, playing with friends etc. Talk about it later while watching the video 

"You are having fun playing with the doggie. You are happy."

"The doggie is snarling when you took his food away. He is angry."

5. Role play 

During role play you can pretend to be a person who is happy for a particular reason. 

E.g. "I am your teacher and you answered correctly in class. I am happy and clapping for you."

that you are playing the role of a person or a character in a story that has a happy event. 

E.g. "I am the teacher. You have finished your work! Very good, I am happy. "

5. Drama

Create a story with different characters and enact a drama with emotions. 

E.g. "This boy is feeling sad because he has lost his dog.

6. Create more opportunities during the day to express various emotions

Create opportunities for making the child feel sad. E.g. hide their favourite toy and say:

"You are sad that your toy is lost". 

After pretending to search for it and finding it, you can say:

"You are happy that we have found the toy". 

Model the words accordingly.

7. Events 

Use events such as birthdays, weddings, anniversary celebrations, baby showers, or other get-togethers to highlight the child's, family members' and other people's emotions. 

E.g. Look at Sara - she is happy and smiling because she is playing with all her friends.

8. Discuss the day at Bedtime 

Develop a bedtime routine to express your feelings about how the day went. Likewise, ask about the child's emotions too. Help the child recall some of the incidents during the day and associating them with key emotions. This way, the child will be able to start recognizing their own emotions better, with more thought given to it on a regular basis. 

9. Vent your feelings 

Use self-talk to share your own feelings (click here for How to use self-talk to model) - this not only helps you vent and share your feelings, but also helps your child relate to it better. E.g. :

"I am feeling tired today after cleaning up the kitchen."

"I am feeling excited that tomorrow is your birthday."

"Look at Anita - she is happy when we were singing "Happy birthday" song for her."

Sample situations to teach emotions

Explain the various expressions of each emotion, to help them associate the emotion with the word. 

Avaz icon 
Expression of the emotion through body language 
Example Situations
Smiling / laughing
Showing teeth
You are happy when you get an ice-cream,
You are happy when you win a game
You are happy when you play with your favourite toy or game
Your sister is watching her favourite cartoon. She looks happy
You got a gift for your birthday. You look happy! 
No smile on the face
Frowning face
Drooping mouth
Drooping eyebrows
It is raining. You look sad because you can't go out now.
The shop is closed. You look sad that we can't buy the toy. 
Oh no! The ice-cream dropped on the floor. You are sad that you can't eat it. 
Your brother is crying because he had a fall. He is sad. 
Your sister has a frown when her friend did not come home. She looks sad. 
I am when we are not able to watch TV because it's under repair.
Face not smiling
Eyebrows are together
Drooping mouth
Loud tone of voice that doesn't sound nice
Mummy is angry when your room is dirty
You did not finish your food. Look at Daddy's face. He looks angry. 
I don't like it when you fight with brother or sister. I am angry. 
You are trying to pull the toy from your friend. You are angry since he is not sharing his toys.
You grabbed the ice-cream from your brother's hands. He is trying to push you - he is angry.
You are angry when I tell NO to pizza.  
Lips stretched
Looking disinterested
You don't have your toys to play with. You look bored. 
Your sister looks bored because she has no friends to play with. 
Eyes enlarged
Eyebrows raised,
Mouth open
The dog is hiding under the bed when he hears thunder, he must be scared. 
When the lights go off. You may be scared because you can't see anything. 
Your sister closed her ears when the balloon bursts with a pop sound. She must be scared of the sound. 
I am scared when I hear the sound of fireworks.
Eyebrows drooping
Mouth dropping

The movie tickets got sold out. You must be disappointed! 

Your father was disappointed when he lost the tennis match. 

When our holiday plans got cancelled, your brother stared crying. He must be disappointed.
Your sister lost the game. Her mouth is drooping. She looks disappointed. 
Hold your head (headache) Hold on to stomach (stomach ache)  
and show a pained face
While the child is having any sort of pain, use the opportunity to explain the pain with the help of Avaz by modelling the word "pain" along along with the appropriate body part symbol.
You can also pretend to fall and get hurt and express pain using Avaz.

Your head is hurting. You are having a head ache. 
You are holding your stomach. You are having stomach pain. 

You had a fall. There is blood in your knee. Your knee must be paining. 

You are coughing / Your throat is sore. You must be having throat pain. 

Stomach growls
Feel like eating food
At specific times
When you are hungry your stomach makes noises. 
The baby is crying.  She must be hungry. 

I see you taking the banana. You must be soo hungry. 

When you are hungry, you want to eat food immediately. 
Are you hungry? Do you want to eat now?


Don't try to teach emotions, when the child is going through a meltdown. Teach the concepts when the child is in a happy and receptive state of mind.


  • The best results happen when the learner is having fun! So try your best to use activities, or topics that are fun for the learner. Make the experience silly or fun by tying in the experience with the learner’s interests. 
  • It is really important to NOT FORCE a response from the user. Forcing communication can lead to reluctance or refusal later, because communication becomes a demand or a "test".
  • Don’t introduce all the emotion words at one go. 
  • Teach a few concepts at a time repetitively, until the child learns to use them in the correct context. 
  • If the child is overwhelmed with too many icons in the page, you can hide some icons from the child's view. see the video below to know  how to hide some icons from the child's view

        For more details, tap here to read How to hide and show icons ?

Emotion zones

Using Emotion zones to identify and respond to emotions

Related articles

Avaz blog - 5 Simple Activities to Develop the Emotional Intelligence Skills of Learners with Disabilities