7 Books That Help Kids Understand Their Emotions
If you’re like most of us, you’re probably feeling the highs and lows of this unprecedented time. Navigating this new normal can be trying, and without the usual outlets of extended family, friends, the gym, and nights out, emotions are bound to come up—sometimes quite unexpectedly. Kids—and yes, even toddlers and babies—feel this too. Not only do they sense, but many may also feel like their lives are out of their control—and that can be a difficult concept for them to communicate.
These books help kids navigate their emotions, put feelings into words, and introduce coping mechanisms that can be applied throughout their lifetime.
Babies and toddlers (0-3)
Many Colored Days
Colorful and imaginative illustrations jump out from the pages.
This board book associates moods and emotions with colors, vibrant images, and imaginative verbs that your child is sure to love. By conceptualizing emotions in this way, they suddenly become relatable and understandable, even to the youngest minds, and the story itself reminds toddlers (and mamas!) that we feel lots of things throughout the day, and it’s okay to explore them. A classic Dr. Seuss, this book is one that gets stuck in your head long after storytime is over.
Follow David, an energetic diapered baby who always finds a way to get into trouble—whether that’s spilling breakfast, making messes, or refusing to go to sleep. But no matter what happens, his mother loves him unconditionally, and your children will, too. David is funny and charming in his messiness, and your kids will enjoy watching him get into mischief. The lesson is in the pages: no matter what happens, or what frustration a child may sense from their parents (because no one is perfect), they are always loved.
Om the Otter
Using breathing exercises, Om the Otter teaches readers about mindfulness, friendship, compassion, and presence. Powerful illustrations remind children of their own inner strength and their unique ability to help others, and the mindful breathing techniques encourage readers of all ages to connect with their bodies in the present moment. This, coupled with the story itself, introduces consciousness and mindfulness in ways that many adults still struggle to comprehend.
The Way I Feel
An oldie but goodie, this vibrant picture book depicts children experiencing all sorts of emotions—from pride and jealousy to shyness and excitement. Using rhyming texts (the kind that gets stuck in your head), this book serves as a reminder that emotions come and go, that they are all a part of who you are, but they are not who you are. And that’s a reminder that even mama needs sometimes.
Elementary age (5-10)
Lots of Feelings
Psychologists say that the easiest way to tell how someone’s feeling is to mimic their facial expressions, and it’s true: faces are the gateway into your emotions. In this book, full-page photographs of faces wearing different expressions are coupled with simple paragraphs that introduce how emotions are worn on various people. This book doesn’t just teach kids how to match faces with feelings and feel empathy, it’s also an introduction to the art of photography.
Anger Management Workbook for Kids: Help Children Stay Calm and Make Better Choices When They Feel Mad
Anger can be a difficult emotion to understand, and unlike the feelings of joy, sadness, and fear, it can be particularly challenging to know how to constructively express yourself when feeling it. Written by a child development psychologist, this workbook helps children understand anger as an emotion, learn how to cope with it in healthy ways, and refocus that energy to problem-solving using tools like gratitude, self-kindness, and friendliness. The whole family might even feel compelled to join!
My Magic Breath: Finding Calm Through Magic Breathing
Everyone has the “magic breath,” and your kids can experience it for themselves. By taking a deeeeeep breath in and then blowing it out, readers can experience firsthand how they can feel better when sad or angry, just like magic. Reading (and breathing) along in this interactive book teaches children how to make negative emotions disappear using their own magic breath. Not only used to transform sadness and anger, but this book also lays a solid foundation for self-awareness and mindfulness.
Now we’re not saying these books are going to magically solve the wild emotions that are coming up during this crazy time in our lives, but they do offer unique ways to teach kids how to soothe. The practices introduced—from reading others’ emotions to using the breath to self-soothe are tools that can be used throughout childhood and adulthood. So it’s a bonus if these books are read as a family because honestly, we can all use them.