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Picture books to help children explore emotions

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

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

Best books about feelings for children

Louise Greig Green

Ed is so excited winter is here, because snow means he can go sledging! But something inside him wants his sledge to be absolutely perfect, and the more he works the more the snow melts. A really gentle and beautiful book about feelings for kids that addresses anxiety, perfectionism and holding yourself to too high a standard.

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 feelings book to help little ones explore their own worries - big or small - this is one to reach for.

Alexandra Strick Steve Antony You Can

Based on the real words from a group of children, this picture book focuses on all the amazing things you can do. Each page focuses on a different year in the children's lives meaning you see them grow up as they read. We love how it focuses on everyone's potential and shows how everyone has different skills, passions and lives their own special journey.

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 feelings that explores 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.

Kate Hindley Pamela Butchart Jeremy Worried About the Wind

Jeremy is a worrier – he worries about bananas with brown spots, evil squirrels and wearing odd socks. But his biggest worry is the wind. With the help of his friend Maggie, he's about to go on an adventure to discover his worries aren't so bad after all. This playful picture book is a very fun and silly read that will also open up conversations about feeling worried or anxious.

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 feelings 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.

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.

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.

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 about feelings for kids 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.

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.

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.

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.