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12 books that help children explore emotions

Genre: Identity
Age group: 0-2, 3-5
Topics: Bookbug

Help little ones make sense of their feelings with the help of these wonderful picture books.

Rebecca Patterson My Big Shouting Day

Everyone has a Bad Day now and again – none more so than Bella in this hilarious, but reassuring book about coming to terms with your emotions. From a terrible egg and a hurting foot, to toothpaste that's far too minty, nothing seems to be going right for poor Bella. Thankfully mum is on hand to offer cuddles and a story at bedtime (as well as reassurance that the next day can only be better). Full of energy and expression, this is a wonderful story to read aloud, and one that many little ones and their grown-ups will be able to relate to.

Katie Hickey Nicola Edwards Happy

This soothing book of mindfulness is perfect for sharing with little ones at any time, not just when emotions are running high. Each double page spread focuses on a way for children to connect with their own senses and the world around them with simple but evocative language. Gorgeous illustrations help to shine a light on family, friends, and nature and the short exercises and questions for children at the bottom of each page are great springboards for wider conversations. A lovely book encouraging wee ones to breathe themselves to happiness - untangling worries and calming wild emotions along the way.

Rachel Woodworth Sang Miao Out, Out, Away From Here

This is a story of two worlds; the real world inhabited by a young girl and her family, and the imaginary world she turns to when the real one gets too overwhelming (‘those MAD SAD NOISY days’). The simple voice of the child comes through strongly, with subtle changes in facial expression conveying mood shifts throughout. Gradually calm descends and our emotional journey comes to a close. Emotions are part of who we are, and certainly part of family life. Books like this one do a wonderful job of helping children understand and accept their own emotions, as well as bringing other family issues to the fore.

Cori Doerrfeld The Rabbit Listened

Taylor has been through a difficult time and one by one the animals think they have the answer to make Taylor feel better. Chicken suggests talking about it and bear suggests getting angry, but Taylor doesn't feel like doing either of those things. It's only when rabbit arrives and sits quietly by Taylor's side that Taylor feels like opening up. Both poignant and heartfelt, this story explores children's emotions, how we can support children by giving them the space to explore these feelings, and most importantly, how to listen.

Anthony Browne Silly Billy

Billy is a worrier. He worries about rain. He worries about hats. And he worries about staying at other people's houses. But things start to change for the better for Billy when he spends a night at grandma’s and she introduces him to some friendly-faced worry dolls. Browne is a master at addressing children's emotions, his seemingly simple text and illustration conveying such depth of meaning. The worries experienced by Billy will undoubtedly ring true with many small people, and even if your little one's worries take a different shape, this book can offer hope – and a way in for discussing further coping strategies.

Debi Gliori Stormy Weather

'I'd hold you tight and close and warm and keep you safe all through the storm'. Such soothing words of reassurance for any child to hear as they cuddle up with their parent or carer at bedtime. Full of warmth and love, this picture book reminds little ones that no matter what storms they may encounter in life, their loved ones are there to protect them. And even if children don't yet have the words to express their anxieties, the gentleness of this story and the closeness they see between the animals in the pictures will offer comfort at bedtime.

Laura Ellen Anderson I Don't Want Curly Hair

Sometimes it's the small things in life that can cause the biggest anxiety. Wanting the same shoes as your friend at nursery, or not liking your hair can become big issues for little ones. In this light-hearted tale about a girl with exactly that problem, we follow the emotional journey that she goes through to achieve her dream hair. It's only when she meets another girl with a similar problem that she realises she's not alone in feeling like this. A lovely, rhyming story that not everyone may relate to instantly, but one that can open up further conversations about the hang ups that small people carry around with them.

Jory John Pete Oswald The Bad Seed

There's one seed in town who just can't help but be baaaaaad! He jumps the queue, doesn't put things away, and makes a whole lot of noise in the library. But he hasn't always been bad. In fact he was a much better seed when he was with surrounded by family in the safety of his sunflower head. But like many children, disruption to family life has taken its toll - all seed can do is try his hardest to be the best possible version of himself. This may seem like a silly story on first read, with its quirky illustrations and dramatic narrator. But at its heart is an important and inspiring message that we can all learn from.

Joseph Coelho Robyn Wilson-Owen No Longer Alone

'I'm not shy, I just don't feel like talking right now' announces the little girl at the heart of this poignant story about family, loss, and hope. Everyone around the girl tries to explain her reclusive behaviour, but it's only when dad really stops to listen that she can begin to heal. There are some brilliant books for young children about managing grief, and this is one of our favourites. Its underlying message is relevant not just for dealing with loss, but for any number of different situations: remember to let children be heard and be there for them when life takes an emotional turn.

Chris Chatterton Rachel Bright The Worrysaurus

Worrysaurus is all set for the day ahead - the sun is shining and he's planned the perfect picnic. But wait! What if it starts to rain? Or what if he gets lost? It's time for our little worrier to take a breath, reach into his bag, and remember the coping strategies that his mum has armed him with for times like these. Colour and light return to the pages of this reassuring story, as Worrysaurus chases his fears (and butterflies) away. This soothing, rhythmic story is perfect for sharing cuddled up close with your own little worrier - and may even open the door to your own discussions about your child's anxieties.

Amanda McCardie Salvatore Rubbino A Book of Feelings

Smart and touching in equal measure, this beautiful picture book is perfect for dipping in and out of with young children. Focusing on the emotional ups and downs of brother and sister, Sam and Kate, we discover that everyone has feelings, even Fuzzy Bean the dog. Some are easier to make sense of than others – some are not always what they seem. Jealousy can manifest itself in meanness, and tears are sometimes a sign of happiness! Anger, shyness, sadness and hurt are all played out through the real-life dramas of Sam, Kate and those around them, and the stunning watercolour illustrations capture the essence of each emotion just perfectly.

Tom Percival Ruby's Worry

The worrying thing about worries is that they can start out small - like Ruby’s does in this thoughtful picture book - but before long they’ve grown much bigger. Without realising it, Ruby’s worry has taken over her world completely. When she finally discovers that sharing her worries makes them (almost) disappear, Ruby can get on with enjoying life and just being herself again! The book's use of language is spot on for young children, the careful choice of words perfectly capturing Ruby's growing sense of anxiety and then relief. The children and their worries are beautifully illustrated, and if ever you're in need of a book to help little ones explore their own worries - big or small - this is one to reach for.

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