Books for Building a Feelings Vocabulary

child behaviour feelings parenting challenges picture books Aug 15, 2022

An important part of building your child’s emotional vocabulary is realizing that learning new words for our feelings doesn’t give us that feeling or teach us that feeling for the first time. It’s giving us the ability to identify a feeling we are already having. For example, introducing worry as a feeling and a word doesn’t give your child worry thoughts or feelings, it helps them identify something they are already experiencing. 

This is important for a number of reasons: 

  1. When we can identify our feelings it’s easier to regulate. 
  2. It helps us realize we aren’t weird or wrong because we all have feelings.
  3. It helps us build empathy (others have feelings too.)
  4. It makes parenting easier. 😉

In my recent podcast episode on building tools for feelings (listen here) I shared two strategies for building a feelings vocabulary with your child.

One I teach in the BRTK Bundle called Narration.

The other is books!!

Here are a six books that you can use to start building your child’s emotional vocabulary.

The Way I Feel by Janan Cain

One of my favourite books for building a feelings vocabulary is The Way I Feel. It has playful illustrations and touches on a range of feelings. This makes it a great tool for developing a whole bunch of feelings words in a calm and connected way. Especially those trickier words like disappointment and jealousy. I use this book in my program to show parents how books can be used in a variety of different ways to build feelings words. 

For example: One way I use this book is for charades. Fun fact. If you have ever heard that young children can’t cry on demand, play feelings charades with a group of preschoolers. You will discover very quickly that some children are quite capable of turning on crocodile tears for sad charades!

Note: There is a difference between the board book (less emotions) and the picture book (includes more layered emotions like jealousy)

When Sadness is At Your Door by Eva Eland

Sadness is one of our core feelings and sometimes it gets a bad reputation! In this book, sadness is a feeling that we are encouraged to get to know and understand better. Although it can be tempting to avoid it or hide from it, when you invite it in and sit with it, you can learn how to understand it and understand that it is part of you. 

This book is amazing for recognizing that sadness is an important feeling. It’s also a great way to start exploring the idea that there are  different tools for helping you process sadness when you are feeling it. Things like listening to music, painting, sitting quietly, going for a walk, etc.

The Unbudgeable Curmudgeon by Matthew Burgess & Fiona Woodcock

Another book I use extensively in my program. I love this book for helping children understand that everyone can have grumpy, grouchy annoyed type feelings. Also that those feelings can be a bit contagious if you aren’t careful. It’s a great book for talking about sibling/friend conflict or as a tool for talking about an argument we might have had with our child when the curmudgeon took over! Just like the book on sadness, it does a great job of highlighting that it’s really important to find tools for those curmudgeon feelings so they don’t grow and fester! 

Big Feelings by Alexandra Penfold & Suzanne Kaufman

This book touches on some really important themes. First, everyone, everywhere has feelings. It’s an amazing book for talking about your home, your neighbourhood, your school, etc in the context that everyone has feelings AND not everyone has the same feelings at the same time. It’s also a great book for exploring the importance that conflict resolution plays when Big Feelings are involved. Part of working together is recognizing that we all have feelings and sometimes those feelings will lead to conflict and we need to work through that.

Brave Every Day by Trudy Ludwig & Patrice Barton

One of the feelings we all feel, but sometimes have a harder time expressing are the worries and whatifs. A really important part of building your child’s emotional vocabulary is giving them language for those worry thoughts. This book highlights the importance of understanding when our worry thoughts are holding us back so that we can dig in and find bravery to face those challenges. It also does a great job of showing how others can have worries/whatifs and when we work together, we are stronger (braver).

Where Do Your Feelings Live by Catherine Hernandez & Myriam Chery

In this book you will explore some of the different ways that feelings live inside us. This is a fantastic book for exploring your feelings body clues. It helps guide conversations around the kinds of things that happen inside your body when you have different feelings. Part of building a feelings vocabulary for emotional regulation is understanding and listening to our body clues.