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Resources for Teaching Children About Emotions

Emotion cards at How we Montessori (1)

I was recently asked on the How we Montessori Facebook page for recommendations on resources for teaching young children about emotions. This is one area where they may not be one Montessori approach however I am more than happy to share the resources that we use. 

Teaching children to identify and name emotions is the first step in teaching children about their own emotions and the emotions of others. It's also a good way to teach children there are a range of emotions and all emotions are ok. Once children can name their emotions they can better express themselves, feel heard and understood. We can then help the child develop techniques to manage the emotion.

To help teach our preschooler about emotions we like to use emotions cards. There are lots of emotion cards and Montessori three-part cards on Etsy and Teachers Pay Teachers. We are using these Emotions 3 Part Montessori cards, which I downloaded and printed at home. These are nice and clear photographic images. Benedykt and Sylvester have these wooden Emotions Learning Tiles for Toddlers. We could also photograph our own children and make our own cards!

Emotion cards at How we Montessori (1)

Happy! I've asked Otto (a prereader) to name the emotion on the card and express that emotion. He also sat opposite his older brother and they each expressed an emotion and the other had to guess which emotion it was.

Emotion cards at How we Montessori (1)

Mad, this could also be angry.

Emotion cards at How we Montessori (1)


Emotion cards at How we Montessori (1)


Emotion cards at How we Montessori (3)

Once the child can identify and name their emotions, or name the way they are feeling (sometimes my child will say his tummy is sad, rather than he is sad), we can give the child skills to express and manage that emotion. For example, when Otto feels frustrated, angry or mad we help him:

  • take some deep breaths
  • go for a walk outside
  • squeeze my hand really tight
  • read a book
  • count to ten

These are calming techniques that work for us. Once Otto has calmed down we can discuss what has happened to cause the emotion such as talking to his brothers about what may have happened during a fight or argument.

We might use an alternative approach is when Otto is tired and offer to read a book, go to bed or give him a cuddle. This is more to address the core issue of tiredness.

Role modelling is also super important. If we are feeling sad, frustrated or feeling other emotions, there are times we can share that with our child. It's ok to tell our children how we are feeling and what we are doing about it. I may tell my children I am feeling frustrated and need to be alone for a few minutes.

Emotion cards at How we Montessori (2)

Another way we learn about naming and expressing emotions is by using a Feelings Play Dough Mat, which can also be used for drawing.  Above I've also printed out some smaller 4 x 6 cards which can be used with pencils or crayons. 

Otto using feeling mat at How we Montessori

I've laminated one A4 sheet so my child can use it over and over. Otto doesn't always draw what he is feeling but he's definitely drawing and naming different emotions. This can also be used with playdough and the child can make relevant facial features. 

Emotion dolls at how we Montessori (3)

Emotion dolls can be incredibly useful too. These ones are textured so the child can feel the smoothness of the 'calm' doll, or the sharp-angled texture of the 'frustrated' doll.

These Wooden Emotion Dolls are by Lovevery. There are other emotion dolls available like these on Etsy, which can also help children identify and name emotions. Emotion dolls can be a good way to start conversations about emotions too.

Lovevery emotion dolls at How we Montessori (2)

These dolls have the emotion name written on the bottom of the doll: happy, sad, frustrated, angry, worried and calm. 

Books about feeling emotions at how we Montessori

Reading story books about emotions is a good way to discuss and normalise emotions.

Quiet in My Body, Two Big Feeling and Happy Either Way are all by Lovevery. They are lovely books that explore emotions of frustration and calm (this one is most relevant to us), angry and sad (I think all parents could relate to this),  and happy and worried. They are all about everyday real-life situations that most children can relate to and feature real children. The photographs are large and clear, these are very easy to follow. I wish there were more books like this ❤️.

Books about feeling emotions at how we Montessori

Please let me know of resources you use to talk about and identify emotions!

Resources: Emotions 3 Part Montessori cards (download from Teachers Pay Teachers), Feelings Play Dough Mat (download from Etsy), Wooden Emotion Dolls, Quiet in My Body, Two Big Feeling and Happy Either Way.

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