Emotional Jenga

Name of Activity:  Emotional Jenga

Group size:  5 - 25

Purpose:  Increase emotional intelligence, group cohesion, and insight

Props Needed

  1. Jenga Blocks with emotions written on them

Activity Preparation

Prep time needed:  30 minutes

  1. Make the emotional Jenga set by writing an emotion on each block

Time needed

  • Directions: 5 minutes
  • Activity: 25 minuets
  • Debrief: 15 minuets

Set Up:  Prior to class set up the Jenga set as a tall tower following the instruction on the box. Set up block on a table if using a small set, if using a jumbo set of blocks, you can set them up on the floor. This is completely up to you as a facilitator and the population you are working with.

Activity Directions:

  • Have the participants stand in a circle around the Jenga set.
  • Remind Participants of the rules of Jenga
  • Have clients pull a block and use the word on the block (see variations below)

Facilitator script:

“Let’s form a circle around this table to hear the directions for our game today.  We are going to play a version of Jenga today. Now here’s how the game is played. You are going to take a block from the tower. You can pick any block as long as it is not from the top. Your block will have a feeling word written on it. During round one when you have your block please tell us a short story of the last time you felt that way. Then put the block back on top of the tower. We will continue to until everyone has had a chance. (give everyone a chance to pull their block and share their story of the last time they felt that way)

(For round two) Great job everyone ok are you ready for round two? This time you will pull three blocks. Use one of your blocks to define the feeling using your own words and then select another feeling and share how this feeling could be a potential trigger to use negative coping skills such as alcohol or drugs.

(When and if the tower falls down start clapping in excitement as if the participant did something great this is an intentional way of replacing the feeling that the participant has lost. There are no losers in emotional Jenga)


  • What did you notice about this version of playing the game?
  • What was it like recalling the last time you felt a certain way?
  • What was challenging about this version of Jenga?
  • What was something you learned about yourself/your peers/the group?

Recovery/Wellness Metaphor:

Role of Facilitator: Keep the game going and help participants remember what they are supposed to do with the feeling words.

Variations: Use the feeling words as a check in or debrief. Also write an action or coping skill on each block to get more use out of the set of blocks.

Use emotional words to

  • Describe the last time you felt that way
  • Define the emotion in your own words
  • Describe how that emotion can be a trigger for relapse

Where to Find It/How to Make it: Purchase a set of Jenga blocks. They can be bought online or even found in Goodwill from time to time. Using a Sharpie write out a mixture of positive and negative emotions. For your convenience, we have attached a list that we have used in the past.

List of Positive/Negative Emotions


  1. Blessed
  2. Brave
  3. Clever
  4. Confident
  5. Excited
  6. Fantastic
  7. free
  8. Friendly
  9. glad
  10. Happy
  11. Honest
  12. important
  13. Interested
  14. Joyful
  15. Loved
  16. Miracle
  17. Optimistic
  18. Quiet
  19. relaxed
  20. Reliable
  21. Safe
  22. Satisfied
  23. Surprised
  24. Thankful
  25. Wonderful
  26. Trustworthy
  27. Worthwhile


  1. Abandoned
  2. Aggressive
  3. Angry
  4. Bad
  5. Belittled
  6. Betrayed
  7. Bored
  8. Chaotic
  9. Competitive
  10. Confused
  11. Cowardly
  12. Devastated
  13. Disorganized
  14. Flawed
  15. Fragile
  16. Gloomy
  17. Hateful
  18. Impulsive
  19. Inferior
  20. Irritable
  21. Jealous
  22. Lazy
  23. Misunderstood
  24. Nervous
  25. Offended
  26. Pain
  27. Resentful