I have the joy of working with children as an Occupational Therapist, which requires a lot more creativity and planning than they teach in school. With my kiddo clients, my assessment and interventions often have to be very creative and flexible to keep them engaged.
This past 6 weeks I worked with a group of 4 year olds out in nature to run an Occupational therapy group. With these groups, many of the kids’ have the goal of social skills and emotional regulation, and I LOVE organizing discussions around emotions using children’s books! We usually read our story of the day, and talk about our emotions, followed by trying out a breathing exercise that the kids get a visual to take home. I love stopping after each page to talk about if the children can relate to the emotions in the book (they usually can even if they don’t have the vocabulary for it!).
After we read an emotion book, the kids each get a turn to point out which emotion they feel on this chart. After a couple weeks, the emotions went from just happy and sad to more complex ones like embarrassed and worried (and these were used in context!)
There are SO MANY incredible books out there that touch on those challenging emotions that often result in “negative behaviours” as kids try to communicate their feelings and their needs. I have added the ones that we LOVED this session; if you have more recommendations please share for myself and others down in the comments!
The Color Monster
Summary: One day, Color Monster wakes up feeling very confused. His emotions are all over the place; he feels angry, happy, calm, sad, and scared all at once! To help him, a little girl shows him what each feeling means through color. As this monster learns to sort and define his mixed up emotions, he gains self-awareness and peace as a result. Everyone will enjoy sharing this concept book that taps into both socio-emotional growth and color concepts in a simple, friendly way.
My review: My kiddos LOVED this book – it helped us talk about how it is ok to feel ALL of the different feelings and label them. Just as a note, the colours do not match with the Zones of Regulation (my kids all pointed this out but it was an awesome conversation starter!)
Little Unicorn is Scared
Summary: A little unicorn’s rainbow-colored mane is magic–it shifts to a single color when he’s feeling a particularly strong emotion. At bedtime, he often is scared of the dark, and his mane turns bright green. But when he repeats a special three-step breathing exercise, his fear disappears and his rainbow returns–and if he ever feels scared again, he’ll know just what to do.
Review: My kids liked talking about their own fears during this book – it started a great conversation about what they are scared of an what they do to help themselves feel better! There is a cute breathing activity in this one, although it isn’t the most clear breathing strategy, my 4 year olds like the simple picture based breathing strategies better
The Way I Feel
Summary: The Way I Feel uses strong, colorful, and expressive images which go along with simple verses to help children connect the word and the emotion. The book shares that feelings are neither good nor bad, they simply are.
Review: The kids loved this one, and were able to identify the emotions easily with the illustrations and colours chosen by the illustrator – we played a guessing game where before I read the page they had to guess what emotion the child felt. This helped kids really get thinking about emotions, and allowed the children who knew a bit more, share with the other children what they knew about emotions
Breathing is my Superpower
Summary: The main character, Sofia, will show your kiddos how to control their breathing in various situations, whether at school, at home, or on the playground. Breathing Techniques presented in the book, will help calm your children and show them a fun way of managing their own body, breath, and emotions.
Review: The visuals in this book are lovely; the kiddos loved the five finger breathing activity, and although they all were wearing mittens they all tried it out! Seeing Sofia talk about being upset and mad and how she uses breathing to work through these emotions can be helpful to solidify the idea of breathing when you are upset, as this can sometimes be an abstract concept.
Zoo Zen – A yoga story for kids
Summary: Our main character Lyla learns ten yoga poses from her friends at the zoo, receiving helpful tips along the way from each animal she encounters. This is an imaginative book that combines the benefits of yoga with kids’ natural love for animals to create a magical learning journey that parents and kids can enjoy together!
Review: I absolutely love this book – the illustrations are beautiful and the explanations and drawings of the yoga poses are incredible. As a yoga instructor, teaching kids often takes a lot more creativity, and this book gives you that creativity regardless of your experience with yoga! I love reading this book and pausing at every page for the kids to try out the yoga poses. My kiddos love sitting in a circle and trying out the poses so they can model for each other and share this experience. It can also be a nice book to choose only a couple yoga poses from when a child needs help calming down using movement as a strategy.
The Emotions Book – A little story about BIG feelings.
Summary: Louie, a brave little elephant, teaches kids emotional control and how to effectively act when faced with overwhelming feelings or challenging circumstances. He talks about experiencing big feelings and that when they have these feelings, their body and mind are just telling them what they need! Louie focuses on four emotions – anger, sadness, frustration and happiness, and helps children see it’s ok to listen to them,
Review: The kids LOVED this book, they were able to recognize the emotions Louie was feeling and when I asked them about their feelings they were able to relate when they felt this way and what they did to help with these emotions. We also tried working through some problem solving of what Louie could do with his emotions in each situation which they enjoyed
I think it is important to note a couple things about these books – my kiddos in this group this session were 4 years old but they were also VERY knowledgeable about emotions and eager to sit and listen to the story. They were verbal and their comprehension matched the level of these books. When I start a new group I always take a small interactive book to read in the first week to see how they respond to it, and then choose the stories for the following weeks according to how that goes. Each group is very different as each child is so unique, but these definitely will be reused in future groups and I look forward to sharing new books I discover!
As always, please share in the comments your thoughts about these books, questions or book recommendations! xoxo