There are lots of things that parents can do to help their kids become emotionally intelligent and empathetic – the cornerstones of resilience.
Sometimes it’s just a matter of finding great resources to spark those kinds of conversations with your kids.
Today I’ve gathered up a collection of awesome picture books, games, and activities that you can read, and do, to teach kids about feelings!
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First, I’ll start with the books (and I’ve got some great ones for kids of all ages!), then I’ll tell you about some of the best emotions games and activities from around the web.
If you want to read research based parenting tips for raising emotionally healthy kids – be sure to also check out this companion post: 8 Ways To Teach Kids to Value and Accept Feelings.
9 Awesome Feelings Picture Books
I find that one of the easiest ways to stimulate conversations with my son about feelings – is to read him a great book!
As an avid picture book collector – I’ve searched and rounded up some of my favourite books that all send the message that feelings are OKAY to have – and okay to express.
Read each description to learn more about age appropriateness and how to use each one.
This fantastic book was a great find at our local library. It discusses many different feelings, as well as various reasons why people might feel this way. It’s appropriate for kids aged 2 to 10.
I love the colourful cartoon pictures and how inclusive and representative the characters are.
It’s a great book to introduce the basic emotions, as well as some more complex ones, and it easily led to some wonderful discussions with my son! (I had no idea he was feeling sad about not having seen his grandparents recently until we read this book.)
This is a favourite book of mine and my son’s about anger.
The basic storyline is about a boy named Sam who discovers that his temper can get him into all kinds of trouble. The cartoons in the book creatively show Sam’s temper as a real living thing!
Although he enjoys the power of being aggressive at first, by the end of the story, Sam has learned that it’s better for everyone when he controls his temper! (Shhh! The book sneakily introduces some helpful techniques to help kids calm themselves too.)
I love the message in this book:
“No one can control your temper except you, Sam!”
This book has wonderful customer reviews on Amazon as the perfect feelings book for kids aged 2 to 7. It describes how different emotions feel in the body using language that is lyrical and metaphorical:
“Sometimes my heart feels like a big yellow star, shiny and bright.
I smile from ear to ear and twirl around so fast,
I feel as if I could take off into the sky.
This is when my heart is happy.”
I absolutely love this book because it normalizes and de-stigmatizes all the “negative” emotions. My favourite line?
“Feelings come and feelings go.
I never know what they’ll be.
Silly or angry, happy or sad-
They’re all a part of me!”
The illustrations are colourful and fun – and the book has a great sense of humour! Kids love the rhyming text.
This book by Jamie Lee Curtis is geared towards 2 to 6 year olds. The illustrations are colourful and bright and they clearly convey the different emotions discussed.
The overall message is that it’s OK to feel both good and bad. The last page is interactive and allows kids to move pieces to create a face expressing how they are currently feeling!
A favourite of child therapists, this book by Dr. Seuss explores the relationship between different feelings and different colours.
It talks about how we all have different feelings on different days (and some days we feel all mixed-up!). Different colours and animals are used to symbolize the feelings.
You can use the book to talk about what these different feelings are and whether your child agrees with the colour that is used or would choose a different colour. A fun book for kids of all ages!
This wonderful and inspiring continuation of the story “The Little Engine Who Could,” is perfect for both kids and adults.
The storyline creates a metaphor between LIFE and the continuing journey of the Little Engine. Along life’s adventures – the train experiences all kinds of different feelings that serve as a perfect springboard for discussions of how to deal with life’s challenges.
This book was recommended to a friend of mine by a child therapist for her 6 year old son who was experiencing anxiety.
I’ve read through the book and it is full of common sense strategies for kids aged 5 and up.
It is an interactive workbook and has lots of spaces where kids can draw and write to get them to reflect on ways to calm themselves.
A stunning picture book for older children. Although the pictures appeal to kids of all ages and there is limited text, the emotional concepts run deep.
The premise of this book is that feelings are like guests that come to visit the “house” of our mind. This one reinforces the concept that emotions are temporary and that we can allow them to come and go without allowing them to define who we are.
16 Games & Activities for Teaching About Feelings
Musical Feelings Game | Fumbling Through Parenthood
An active and musical game for kids 5 and up – which gets kids thinking about different emotions, what they look like, and what can cause those feelings.
Emotion Eggs | Laughing Kids Learn
Learn how to make super simple and wobbly emotion eggs which can be used for all kinds of fun games and play.
Emotion Cards | Autism Teaching Strategies
Print out a free set of cards for this emotional awareness social skills game. It was designed for kids on the autistic spectrum, but I think it would be fun for all kids – and a terrific way to get kids talking about feelings with parents at home.
Feelings In a Jar| Amazon product
Each jar holds a year’s worth of slips printed with “feelings words” including gleeful, insecure, grateful, angry, cranky, courageous, hopeful, and many more.
Pull a slip and act out the feeling, or invite someone else to act it out. Use as discussion starters, journaling prompts, or icebreakers for groups. Ages 8+.
Emotional Scavenger Hunt | Mosswood Connections
A fun hands-on activity for kids that helps develop their ability to both recognize different feelings and empathize.
Exploring Emotions Sensory Play | Little Bins for Little Hands
Kids who like tactile sensory experiences will LOVE this homemade slime activity that can be used to stimulate discussions about difficult feelings.
Feelings Playing Cards by Jim Borgman| Amazon product
A set of cartoon drawn emotion cards that includes instructions for 15 fun games that familiarize kids with a wide range of emotions. The cards can be used as sentence completers, for story-telling, reflection, and empathy-building.
Feelings and Coping Parking Lot Activity | Therapeutic Interventions
A fun DIY activity to make with young children who enjoy playing with cars. Provides an easy way to talk about difficult feelings and different strategies for handling them.
Drawing Emotions | Art for Small Hands
This is such a neat art project that you could do with a couple of children that are 6 to 9 years old. It gets the kids thinking about what feelings the different facial expressions indicate.
5 Steps to Managing Big Emotions Poster |Childhood 101
Print out a free copy of this poster for young children with 5 easy steps to help them cope when they have big feelings.
Emotions Printables | Sheff Kids
A wonderful resource site with a variety of printable activities, and games that can be used to stimulate discussions and boost your child’s emotional awareness. I personally love their many feelings poster which can be used as a visual emotional “check-in” with kids.
Emotion Mania Thumball | Amazon product
I love the idea of throwing around this miniature feelings soccer ball for some active feelings discussions! When a child catches the ball, whichever feeling their thumb lands on, becomes a prompt to chat.
Maybe they give an example of a time when they felt that way, or an example of someone else feeling that way – or maybe they act out that feeling with their body or face. The possibilities are endless.
Emotions Matching Game | B-Inspired Mama
Feeling a little crafty? Make this photographic emotions matching book with your kids to help teach them learn different words for feelings.
Emotional Animals Kids Game | Craftionary
A super simple DIY charades game for 2 to 6 year olds that gets them acting out a feeling and an animal! Think: “Silly dog.” Sure to bring out the giggles!
Printable Inside Out Emotions Board Game | Strawberry Mommycakes
Got a fan of the movie “Inside Out”? They might enjoy playing this free printable board game that is geared towards “younger kids that are still getting a grasp for what emotions are and how to behave when they feel certain emotions.”
Empathy Bead Bracelets| Sugar Aunts
An adorable activity and craft that can be used with any picture book that involves feelings. It gets kids putting themselves in someone else’s shoes and thinking about their emotions.
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Wishing you all the best in your parenting journey,