Talking about emotions: Activities for early learners

By Children’s Librarian Shelley Harris

It’s never too early to talk about emotions with children, even babies and toddlers. The end of summer and start of new autumn routines is close, and with all of the big changes can come big feelings. 

Below are a few activities you can do together to encourage kids to talk about their emotions.

Watch these videos

1. In this video, I share some pages from The Big Worry Day. This is a great book for validating worries and fears, and offering supports for managing them.

2. Here, Jenny and I demonstrate songs that can help kids talk about the emotions they feel as well as work through those rough feelings.

3. We’re big fans of Mr. Rogers at the library, especially his mantra that “What is mentionable is manageable.” When we talk about big feelings, they aren’t as overwhelming anymore. What is your favorite way to express a big emotion? Mr Rogers liked to play the piano, and he’s not the only one who used music. Watch Mr. Rogers and cellist Yo-Yo Ma enjoy some music together in a video from PBS Kids »

4. Mr. Rogers also spent a lot of time talking to kids about feelings, and naming them: sad, scared, disappointed, even ambivalent. Read more about his conversations with children and watch clips on the Fred Rogers Production website »

Read these books

Looking for books to share?

  • Big Boys Cry is a wonderful look at the importance of allowing everyone to fully express all of their emotions in whatever ways feel best.
  • In My Heart: A Book of Feelings explores different emotions and how they can show themselves. Do you stomp or cry when you’re angry? Do you laugh or cry when you’re happy? Everyone expresses themselves differently!
  • The Rabbit Listens is a wonderful book about the importance of listening when big feelings happen. This book is also part of our Exploring Emotions Social-Emotional Learning kit.
  • Baby Faces are a great way to introduce babies and toddlers to naming emotions. Toddlers can help mimic and act them out, too.
Shelley Harris

About Shelley

Shelley is a neurodivergent children’s librarian with a passion for early literacy, serving and celebrating the disability community, and exploring technology. She can often be found practicing storytime songs with her black lab, Bingo.