Here’s a simple center you can set up at home or in the classroom to help children explore emotions and learn about feelings!
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The Importance of Exploring Feelings
One of the most important things I try to teach my children is to understand and name their feelings. It’s an important lesson for children to realize that different emotions are okay and to recognize those feelings in themselves and eventually in others. It’s especially important for kids to know they don’t always have to feel happy. That it’s normal to feel sad, shy or even jealous. Once children learn to understand how they are feeling, they can eventually better display empathy towards others and use those skills to develop healthy relationships with their peers.
Setting Up a Feelings Center
One way to help children begin exploring feelings and initiating conversations about them is to set up a feelings center in your classroom or home. Children can explore feelings through books, drawing, practicing facial expressions in a mirror and interacting with stuffed animals or dolls.
For our feelings center at home, I placed a mirror on the ground at the kids’ level. I also added a set of children’s books related to feelings. On a nearby shelf I put some colored pencils, a journal and, Lucy’s poetry journal. You could also add some stuffed animals or dolls to the center. Children love imaginary play with stuffed animals, and by providing some little friends nearby, kids can interact and discuss their feelings with them.
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Lucy actually has a stuffed doll called a Kimochi. Have you heard of these? Basically, they are emotion dolls that come with little stuffed Kimochi emotion pillows. The dolls have a pocket where you can store the little stuffed feeling pillows. Such a cute idea! We placed her Kimochi doll in the feeling center too.
My goal with our feelings center was to just have a simple place that allowed Lucy to explore feelings in any way she wanted. She wasn’t required to do anything. I set the center up one day while she was resting in her room. When she was done resting, I introduced it to her. We went through all the materials together. First, she chose a few books for me to read to her, and then she spent a lot of time exploring the center on her own.
I think one of her favorite things to do was make different faces in the mirror! She loved trying to copy the ones she saw in the books.
She also came up with a poem she wanted me to write for her in her poetry journal.
The Benefits in Everyday Life
I love how her exploration of feelings has carried over into things we do everyday. I often hear her talking to her dolls about feelings in her play. When we read bedtime stories she’ll bring up how the characters are feeling and why she thinks they are feeling a certain way. It’s also helped by increasing her vocabulary and understanding of feelings. Now when she encounters a situation with her peers, she can talk to me about it easily, and it’s also helped her to try to understand her peer’s actions in certain situations.
I’ve shared some of the books we added to our children’s book set about feelings below. I’d love to hear any others you’ve read!
Children’s Books Having to do with Feelings
The Way I Feel by Janan Cain
Feelings to Share from A to Z by Todd Snow
Lots of Feelings by Shelley Rotner
The Feelings Book by Todd Parr
Today I Feel Silly: And Other Moods That Make My Day by Jamie Lee Curtis
Hurty Feelings by Helen Lester
Glad Monster, Sad Monster by Ed Emberley
My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss
Have you done anything similar in your home or classroom to help children understand feelings and emotions?
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