The very first of my picture books for children came out in 2014 and I really could not have anticipated how well it would do. It’s been translated into lots of different languages (including complex Chinese), a second edition paperback is coming out soon, there’s an associated sticker and activity book and the sequel with twelve more emotions is on its way: How are you feeling now? I’ve had lots of positive feedback from parents, teachers and carers. I have been told children take it to bed and cuddle it, that they found their child using one of the strategies, that they more willingly declare their emotions and that they stare at the pictures for ages. One of my favourite (unrelated to children) stories I was told was that some nurses looked at it at the start and end of their shift together to assess how they were feeling and to find out what to do about it! I love that (and I’d love to write a grown-up version of the book!)
A journey into using this book starts when children turn to the contents page. Here it invites children to consider what they might be feeling from a choice of twelve emotions – feeling: happy, angry, bored, worried, sad, excited, grumpy, scared, quiet, jealous, embarrassed or shy. Then depending upon why you decide you might be feeling, you are invited to turn to a double page spread where you are given some suggestions about what you might like to try when you feel that way. Here’s the happiness page:
I think the beauty of the book is its simplicity but I think its worth is something different. I have grown to realise that it’s not necessarily the content of the book that is its main plus – no – it’s simply that children are considering and focusing on what they might be feeling more than they might have done, as a result of my book! We are generally not encouraged to even consider emotions but this book is a brilliant start on a journey to improve emotional intelligence. It also helps children consider that there might be things they can do to help them manage their emotions of course.
It’s also a great book for parents/carers to share with their children as they too can reflect upon what they might be feeling or had felt that day. It can be a deeply connecting experience with your child.
I also recently found the original sketches I did to hand over to the (then unknown to me) illustrator: Sarah Jennings. I think we can safely say, Sarah nailed it!
So with this book in mind, what could parents/carers teachers do to enhance its use? Here are a few ideas:
- Ask children to draw a picture of themselves experiencing each emotion.
- Consider what a trigger for each emotion could be – for them. You could also ask children to consider when they think they might have seen someone else experience any of the emotions and what they think triggered it for them. There’s potentially lots of discussion about what triggers different emotions that could be re-visited regularly.
- Sort the emotions into enjoyable or unenjoyable, order them from what they think are most noticeable to least noticeable emotions, consider which emotions last a few seconds and which last longer, sort them into emotions that make you feel like doing lots and those that make you feel like doing very little.
- Find other words that mean happy, angry, sad and scared, together. Decide which words sound like you’re experiencing the emotion strongly and which less so.
- Consider other emotions not included in the book and come up with ideas of what you could do when you felt those. e.g. lonely, disappointed, grateful.
- Decide which of the eight suggestions on each emotion page they would most want to do.
- Make an emotion poster of the twelve emotions by copying their favourite picture on each emotion page or copy emoticons from the internet.
- Make a guess of which emotion you might feel the most often (this can give interesting insights in itself) and then keep a tally (as best as you can) of which of the twelve emotions you have felt each day, for a week and compare with your prediction and discuss. This can help children really focus inwardly on their emotions.
- Ask children what it feels like to be … (insert emotion). Note down what they say. Compare it to the small insert on each page that says something about, or describes each emotion.
- Make a smile collage like it suggests on page 7.
- Ask children for an honest answer about what anger makes them feel like doing.
- Create the longest list you can of things you could do when you feel bored.
- Draw their own worry extractor (page 12) – or make one! Or create a worry machine.
- Consider what sadness (or any of the other emotions) would look like if it was a statue.
- Draw excitement (like it suggests in the How Are You Feeling Today? Activity and Sticker Book.) Think about which colours you would use, what lines and shapes and any images you might include (like a firework).
- Pull your grumpiest faces and hold them until one of you laughs!
- Consider feeling scared and what makes you feel scared. Ask which things are actually dangerous and why.
- Wonder if there are times when you are more likely to feel the need to be quiet e.g. first thing in the morning, last thing at night, when you get home from school, when you eat your lunch, after a loud event with lots of people, when you’re concentrating, just before you’re about to do something that asks a lot of you etc.
- Consider anything you have been jealous or envious about. Talk about this and be curious about why you felt this. Does it highlight something you want to try and improve or try or need to think differently about?
- Share a story of embarrassment. Try to make it funny and join in with any laughter.
- Make a really simple plan for when you might next feel shy including some of the ideas on pages 28 and 29.