Books for talking to children about emotions

It takes time for children to learn to recognise and manage their feelings. Talking to children about emotions can help this process. Talking is usually best done when everyone is calm and no-one is overly emotional. Reading a book together can help young children to reflect on feelings (their own and other people’s) and can prompt conversations about how emotions are expressed.

Here are my favourite books for talking to children about emotions – I hope you find them useful.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (by Judith Viorst)

Alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day is a real classic – 40 years old but still a thoughtful and charming read. It tells a simple story about a day in which everything goes wrong – but the real focus is on how Alexander feels and the choices he has about how to respond to the rubbish things that happen that day. Perfect for starting “How do you feel when….” conversations with 3- to 8-year-olds.

When Sophie Gets Angry – Really, Really Angry (by Molly Bang)

The illustrations in When Sophie Gets Angry-Really, Really Angry (Scholastic Bookshelf: Feelings) are beautiful. But the real point of reading it is to talk about how anger feels, what it makes you want to do and what you can do instead. The book communicates its messages on lots of different levels. The colours map Sophie’s feelings – when she is full of rage the pictures are dominated by reds which then fade to yellows as she calms down. Sophie manages to calm down by running off and going for a long walk – this might not be an option that you would recommend but it can be used to start a discussion about what might work to help your particular child feel calmer. (4- to 8-year-olds)

How are you feeling today? (by Molly Potter)

What I like about How are you feeling today? is that it doesn’t just focus on negative emotions. Children can find positive emotions (like excitement) equally overwhelming and this book includes a great selection of feelings and focusses on practical coping strategies that children can use for dealing with that emotion. So it’s great not just for talking to children about emotions in general but for identifying their specific emotions that day and coming up with a plan for dealing with them. (Age 4+)

On Monday When It Rained (by Cherryl Kachenmeister)

On Monday When It Rained is a great tool for moving young children towards empathy. It goes through a week in the life of one boy and all the different emotions he experiences. Each emotion is accompanied by a photograph of a face and children are encouraged to discuss which emotion that face is expressing – great for helping children to learn to read people’s feelings from their facial expressions. Simple, but fun and thoughtful – one to read again and again. (4- to 7-year-olds)

The Way I Feel (by Janan Cain)

The Way I Feel uses poems to articulate a selection of common emotions and presents them as very simply part of being human. There is no focus on behaviour, just on how emotions feel, so it is the perfect springboard for talking to your child about emotions in general and helping them to recognise those feelings in themselves. The illustrations are simple and effective and the poems are good enough just to enjoy for their own sake. (Age 3+)

Hands are not for hitting (by Martine Agassi)

As the title implies, the focus of Hands are not for Hitting is on helping children refrain from expressing anger and frustration in violent or aggressive ways. The book goes through a long list of all the wonderful things that hands can be used for and there are notes and suggestions for adults on how to apply the learning from the book. Some parents report success with this book from as young as two years old!

These are my favourites – please comment below and let us all know if there is a book that you would especially recommend for talking to children about emotions. You might also like these Books for teaching children social skills or Books for helping children manage friendship problems Or why not try some Finger Breathing or watch this free video tutorial for ideas for self soothe strategies to help your child calm themselves down?

This is not a sponsored post, I wrote it in response to the questions I am frequently asked during my parenting clinics. However, it does contain affiliate links (which means that if you click through from this post and buy one of these books, I will get a small fee). For more info, see my Disclosure Notice.

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16 thoughts on “Books for talking to children about emotions

  1. Chantelle Hazelden

    Some great choices, I’m at the stage with my 3 year old where I’m trying to help her decipher her own emotions and these look like they could help a lot. Thanks for sharing with #ReadWithMe

    1. AnitaCleare Post author

      I think 3 yr olds respond really well to talking about emotions through books, often much better than trying to talk to them about real people’s feelings!

  2. Maddy@writingbubble

    Thanks for sharing these. I have three boys and our oldest (8) has always been very emotional. We have a few books about emotions but none of these ones, so thanks for the recomendations. #readwithme

  3. KTM

    I know this is an old post but a few more ideas in case helpful. The Huge Bag of Worries is also good for talking about feelings – even used in schools to discuss how to deal with worries in KS1. And my 6 yo likes The Invisible String for when I travel with work. “Something Else” by Kathryn Cave also provoked discussion about being the same or different and how that makes you feel.

  4. Allegra

    “In My Heart: A Book of Feelings” by Jo Witek is our absolute favourite. Beautifully illustrated and discusses “good” and “bad” feelings and gives them colours, shapes, etc. Brilliant with my 3 year old as I can just ask her, what colour is your heart today?


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