Helping our little ones learn to sit with their big feelings is so helpful and important rather than teaching them to hide their emotions or push them away. Through stories, we can encourage them to see the beauty in all feelings: that none are bad or need to be scary.
The following picture books reflect that being quiet and sitting with all feelings is part of who we are. The words and illustrations in these books are peaceful and quiet and full of the love we need to show children as we support them through their big feelings.
Annie’s Cat Is Sad, written by Heather Smith, is a story about Annie’s cat...until the reader realizes it isn’t. Annie is a young girl with glorious huge red hair who tells the reader about her very sad cat and all the things she knows she can do to make it forget its sadness if only for a while. Of course we know it’s Anna who is sad and having a bad day before we see her cry through Karen Obuhanych’s beautiful illustrations. This story does an excellent job of showing how important it is to give ourselves what we need when sitting with hard feelings.
When I Listen to Silence is a story about being still and quiet and giving over to imagination. And that can be just as difficult as sitting with big feelings, not knowing quite what to do, maybe even feeling a little bored. But when the child in this story is told by their mother to be quiet for a
little while, that’s just what they have to do — be still with their thoughts and see what happens! Our narrator has adventures with dancing bears, roaring dragons, and trips to the moon. The chalk-like illustrations add to the dreaminess of this book that is so wonderful and will help our littlest readers to trust and love their imaginations.
In Lizzy and the Cloud, Lizzy has a cloud above her. It might be sadness or another tricky emotion, but whatever it is, it is hers and she takes care of it. She names it and waters it and understands that it is sensitive. Some days it is bigger and causes a storm or a tantrum but in taking care of her cloud, Lizzy sees its beauty. This story can help adults talk to little ones about taking care of themselves and their feelings, not fighting against them or seeing them as something to get rid of.
Wildflower, by Melanie Brown, is a story about Daisy, an actual flower who has bloomed and sees herself as important and beautiful as all of the other flowers in the garden. But when nearby Rose tells Daisy she is only a weed, “something that wasn’t planted on purpose and gets in the way,” Daisy feels bad about herself. The beautiful illustrations in this book show Daisy drooping until she makes friends with Sweet Pea and Clover and Dandelion who are in the same situation. This story is about bullying, friendship, empathy, and self-reliance as the lovely weeds see their own beauty and bloom again!
In the small and powerful picture book Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox, Daneille Daniel uses traditional Anishinaabe totem animals to help children identify themselves and their feelings. Each page introduces the totem animals with a picture and a poem: “Sometimes I feel like a bear, strong and confident” or “Sometimes I feel like a turtle, slow and quiet.” It can help children learn to reflect on their emotions and value their worth.
Danielle Daniel teams up with Monique Gray Smith to help readers reflect on how others can love and respect them. You Hold Me Up teaches self-reflection and also gratitude for the ways we take care of each other. In recognizing how others make us feel good, we will be more able to help others.
Where Do Your Feelings Live? by Catherine Hernandez poses questions to the reader about how they might feel in different situations, like when your parents argue. The questions are written as answers, letting the reader identify their own reactions rather than have to come up with their own words. Each feeling is validated and celebrated. The illustrations by Myriam Chery show a diverse group of children doing their best in hard situations.
Sarah Campbell has worked as an elementary school teacher and a children’s programmer and library assistant. You would think working at a library would keep her from buying all the books, but it doesn’t. She lives in Waterloo, Ontario with her husband, their sons, and dog, Bingo. You can follow her at Pink Fish Reads.
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