Make a printable dress-up paper doll that will teach children about emotions and the way they’re expressed through body language. Instead of costumes, this paper doll changes faces. This version features a boy doll, specially designed for boys, who would look for a male role-model.
When I was a kid, I used to like playing with paper dolls. Now that I’m a mother and an educator, I rediscovered the pleasure of playing with them again. A paper doll is a fun simple tool for teaching kids about a variety of subjects. These dolls can teach about history, geography, and books through their different costumes. But this particular doll does’t actually have an extensive wardrobe; instead, it changes expressions and delves into the subject of emotions.
The idea of this doll came to me when I was looking for games that would help me in talking about emotions to my kids. Since my oldest turned four, he became mature enough to care about how other people feel. “Are you angry, mommy?” he would ask sometimes. “No, why?” “Your mouth was like this… You weren’t smiling!” “I’m just a little tired.” He had enough empathy to care, but not quite enough experience to either identify the body language or know how to react. And when he was trying to describe how he felt, he also often couldn’t find the right words. I know that a lot of kids struggle with these, and even for adults the subject of emotions can sometimes be tricky.
That’s how the doll came into existence – it was designed to discuss our emotions in a manner that would be accessible to children. In addition, the doll can be a storytelling prompt, a fun paper companion and simply a craft that is easy to bring along. After all, all you need comes on a few pieces of paper and includes:
- a doll with 14 expressions
- a sheet of blank expressions for kids to draw their own
- a sheet with poses and costumes
- emotion cards
Below, I’ll talk about all of them in detail.
Benefits of Emotion Paper Dolls
If you played with dress-up paper dolls while growing up, you probably remember how much fun it was! From the adult’s perspective, we can also see how useful this activity can be for a child’s development. Here are a few important skills that making paper dolls and playing with them can encourage:
- Fine motor skills. Think scissor cutting practice! Operating all the tabs is a useful challenge, as well. If you think it may be too tricky for a young child, try magnetic dolls instead. I’ll explain how they can be made below.
- Creativity and art skills. Because who wouldn’t want to make some additional costumes for the dolls? The emotion dolls come with blank face templates as well, so children can draw new faces.
- Storytelling and social skills. The expressions of these paper dolls prompt kids to make a story or two! Start by asking questions, “How does she look now? What is she feeling? Which of her features makes you think so?” To engage in a further discussion, you can ask questions, “What could have happened to her? What would you say to her in this situation?”
This emotion paper doll is designed to work for all of the above, but its main purpose is still to teach children about reading the emotions and body language of their peers, helping them with developing social and emotional intelligence.
Start by changing a few different facial expressions and discuss what emotions they convey.
After that, try adding body language. You will notice that certain body language intensifies certain emotions. Hands on hips make a happy expression really happy, and it also makes anger really apparent. On the other hand, it doesn’t work well with other facial expressions.
Each facial expression comes with a card describing the signs of different emotions. You can use the cards in a variety of ways:
- for reference – to identify the signs that make a face express a particular emotion
- for matching with corresponding faces – you can even set up a memory game!
- as a challenge card – make the doll look sad by finding the face that shows all the signs of sadness and adding the body that has arms wrapped around itself
With this pack, you can make either a classic paper doll with new layers attaching by paper tabs or a magnetic doll to go on a fridge or magnetic board. Personally, we prefer the magnetic dolls. My kids just love everything magnetic, and it’s easier for little hands to manipulate magnetic pieces.
In order to make the doll magnetic, you can either print it on special magnetic sheets or print it on standard paper and adhere little strips of magnet tape on the back. See how I did a combination of the two – they both work!
Thanks for reading!