Happy, Sad, Cray Cray, and Mad – Facial Emotions Activity for Preschoolers

We have been talking about feelings and emotions at the house. Being able to recognize other people’s emotional state does not come easily to my family so it’s something we work on sometimes even with the older kids.

Words of the day:

Empathy – Being able to share or recognize another living beings feelings or emotions.
Sympathy – Being able to understand the distress of another being.
Compassion – A response to the emotional state of a being in distress.
Emotions- The way someone feels and reacts to a situation, mood, or relationship with another. Such as Happiness because someone just gave you a gift.

The difference between EMPATHY and SYMPATHY is that Empathy is the ability to recognize emotions and Sympathy is the ability to understand them. Some times these concepts are hard for a child to grasp. You may think that a lot of children don’t have any empathy or sympathy but they may just be emotionally immature and will grow into it. As humans, sympathy is needed or without it could you imagine all that would happen in the world. That would make a good topic of conversation question. What would happen if no one had sympathy for their fellow man?

Ok on to the projects.



I gave the children each some magazine pages to look at people faces and decide if they were happy, sad, (choice of emotion), or mad. Each child had their own take on the instructions and I let them create their art work their own way. Each different work of art tells a story about the child that created it, Bub is kinda minimalist, CB is a perfectionist, and Lou is a toddler who probably tried to  eat more of the glue than used on her paper. Don’t worry I was right beside her saying, “That is not food.”

Kid Take

Bub picked pictures that made him feel the emotions. Such as he picked pictures that made him feel happy or sad. Funny was the category he chose because he wanted somewhere to put the pictures he found silly that made him laugh.


Lou’s take on the project was unique as she opted to tear hers out. That could be because I wouldn’t let her use the scissors. I did help encourage her a little with what is what but she can get happy every time. Even just turned two year olds know that smiling equals happiness.

That should say surprised but some one forgot how to write a s and wrote it backwards. It’s my dyslexia acting up. It doesn’t happen often, just when I am filling out paperwork in front of people, filling out something that can’t be erased, or anything I get flustered.


Cb was more structured and not quite as all over the place. She also went into more depth with her choice section which was “Cray Cray”. I’m pretty sure she has a full grasp on the topic of cray cray and quite a bit of experience in the area. Let’s just say that a certain little girl went to school in pink striped leggings, blue striped skirt, and a pink shirt that proclaimed her epicness. Cray Cray but I love her. She has a good grasp on Empathy but lacks greatly in the sympathy department.



  1. I love the way you described sympathy and empathy because I struggle to find the words to explain definitions to my kids.
    And my oldest definitely detects facial expressions. Not only that, she tries it with our pets! I do tell her those are a bit more complicated, but I like that she reads their moods.

  2. I love this! I also have to admit, the fact that you added cray-cray cracked me up!

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