Sunday, December 18, 2011

Identifying Feelings

With Christmas around the corner, it's not too late to get your little one a last minute gift- a feelings gift that is.  I know, I know, I posted my favorite feelings gift idea last year, but my child has finally reached the age where tracking feelings is actually something she is acknowledging now and it's so exciting to start teaching her all about them!


How do you start with the whole 'identifying feelings' lesson? Let's start with a feelings lesson first and then talk about how to teach them with toys.

In teaching your child feelings, you can start at any age, even if your child is 10, it's not too late.  I started with my child around 6 months of age, but it was here and there.  Now that my child is 19 months old, she is really starting to understand them!

My first 'ah-ha' feeling moment with my child was during her bath time the other night.  She had learned how to take her bath toy, and put it under water and then squirt the water out of it's mouth when she squeezed it.  She was giggling so hard at her new found skill!  So I tracked her feeling, "you are sooo happy, you are laughing out loud!"

And that my friends is how you track feelings. See how easy that was?

As a goal during graduate school training, my professors taught us to track a feeling at least every 5 minutes in our 45 minute sessions.  So in normal every day life, it's become an easy habit of mine to use with children and it actually is one of the easiest techniques to learn as a parent too.  It's so easy because you're not having to come up with good response to their questions, sum up their play, make statements to increase their self esteem, set a limit, etc.  You are basically stating what feeling you see. And that's it!

Here is the step by step guide on how to do it:

-Observe your child in their everyday routine such as: play, doing homework, interacting with their friends or siblings

-State exactly what you see them doing and name the feeling you see

-No need to explain, or go into detail about how you came up with the idea.  Just state what you see.

-If your child is young and is not sure what a feeling means, you can go ahead and teach them what it means. I'll give you some examples below.

-If your child is older, they may challenge you and say you are wrong about the feeling. If that happens, go ahead and admit you were wrong and state the feeling they said they were feeling.  When children do this, it shows feelings are personal and sometimes people get them wrong, plus it starts them getting to identify their own feelings!

*Remember that in teaching feelings, to make sure they get the message that it's okay to feel all feelings (even anger and sadness).  What is not okay is the behavior that can come with them such as aggressiveness, etc.

Here are some examples:

"You just threw your toy on the floor.  It looks like you are feeling mad right now."

"I see a smile on your face, you are feeling really happy!"

"When you jump up and down and laugh, it shows how excited you are"

For a young child in teaching them about them: "You are crying because your dropped your toy and it broke and you feel sad now.  Sad is a feeling we feel when we cry or when things break, and we are not feeling happy."

A great way to start teaching your children about feelings are the Kimochi dolls.  We have the cloud and the ladybug.  But they have several others to choose from that can represent different feelings. They each come with a little feeling doll that has a picture of the feeling face as well as the word on the back of it.

The ladybug doesn't like change and comes with the feelings: Happy, Brave and Left Out.  The cloud has a head that spins around where one side is smiling and the other is frowning and comes with happy, mad and sad. The huggtopus is an octopus that teaches boundaries and comes with frustrated, happy and silly.  The cat deals with negative feelings (cat fights) and comes with happy, cranky and curious as well as bandages to heal hurt feelings.  You can also buy a bag of extra feelings to use with your stuffed kimochi.

There are a ton of ways to use the kimochis in play. The toys come with a 48 page book on all the different ways to use them with your child.  If you're deciding on which one to buy, I would start with the Cloud first as it's pretty neutral and cute.  You can show children the feelings it comes with, discuss what they mean and how some people stuff feelings inside and don't let them out, while you physically put them in the Cloud's pocket.

In using the Kimochi, with older kids you can ask them to role play situations with each feeling, put on a puppet show, etc.  With younger kids, you can ask them each day to show on the Cloud what feeling they are feeling now, show them how moods change by moving its head around to show the different faces.  With little tots who are not as verbal, you can ask them to show you how they are feeling at the moment since it has the expression on each feeling doll.

I am so excited to start using this with my little girl!

Here are some of my other favorite feelings toys/books:
This feelings chart Mood Swings (amazon) is a flip chart where you can ask your child to choose how they are feeling that day.  I love having it set out on my desk at home:

My favorite feelings story is Today I Feel Silly (amazon) . It's a cute story of a little girl (but little boys will also enjoy this book), and each page shows all the different moods she feels. The last page has a picture of her face and a scrolling wheel that changes her facial expressions.

There is also a book called The Feelings Book which is a cute board book with funny faces and silly situations like "I feel silly and want to eat pizza" kind of pages. It's more for younger kids and is a fun way to introduce feelings.

This last feelings toy is an old game for older kids called The Ungame (amazon) where the playing cards have questions about feelings, life situations and family issues:

Another great resource for books and materials is on  They have a lot of books on individual feelings if you are needing something specific for your child.

Let me know any ideas of how you've been teaching your littles about feelings.


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