If our favourite childhood stories bring us comfort as adults, so can picture books help kids understand emotions. They’re tricky things, emotions, and they can sneak up and leave you feeling like you’ve been hit by a train, and can be as hard for parents as it is for kids. Imagine being bombarded by all that when you can’t even tie your own shoes! Whether it’s having to share a toy or being on the receiving end of a shove, not everything is fun and games for little people with all these complicated feelings.
We need to be able to rely on ourselves to regulate our own emotions. However, kids can find it hard to control their emotions and their emotions may even end up controlling them (Disney-Pixar made an entire movie about it; Inside Out – it’s worth checking out!). By learning what happiness, sadness, anger, fear and all the other emotions are, kids can find methods to cope with them, or learn how to seek help. Your local library or bookstore is a good place to start: pick up one of these cool reads, and snuggle up for the emotional roller coaster ride.
Glad Monster, Sad Monster by Ed Emberley
These awesome monsters come in different colours like red, yellow, and blue, but they also come with different sets of emotions such as glad, sad, loving, and worried. Each double page spread includes a monster mask for kids to put on and then talk about what makes them glad or sad. Encourage the kids to see through the eyes of a scary monster and see if they can scare anyone, or if the monster will scare them!
The Way I Feel by Janan Cain
This book is designed to help kids identify the emotions they experience when they’re in certain situations. From simple emotions like happy, sad or angry, to more complex ones like disappointed, thankful, and even shy, this book is perfect for kids just starting to experience the emotions they can’t name. Told in rhyme with bright and cheerful illustrations, this is a great book to read aloud to one or more little ones.
The Colour Monster by Anna Llenas
Who doesn’t love a good pop-up picture book? We can’t get enough of them and we’re sure your kids won’t either. In Anna Llenas’ The Colour Monster, the monster leaves a palpable mess, dragging his colours everywhere until a little girl decides to help him. By organising all his feelings into jars for happy, sad, angry, fear, calm, and one last bright pink colour (guess! It starts with ‘l’…), the little girl helps make sense of the monster’s feelings. This wonderful, whimsical book will enthral any toddler as it brings all those messy emotions to life.
All Too Much for Oliver by Leila Boukarim and Barbara Moxham
“Sometimes when the world is too loud, too crowded, or when everything just gets a bit too much, a friend can really help to quiet things down.” All Too Much for Oliver is a highly sensitive book for highly sensitive children like Oliver, who is easily overwhelmed by information and emotions and prefers to be alone. But when Oliver meets Odile, a less sensitive girl, that starts to change. Check out other books in the My Quiet Adventures series like Aiden Finds a Way for more books on sensitive children and read our interview with author Leila Boukarim on what it’s like parenting a highly sensitive child.
Mouse Was Mad by Linda Urban
Mouse was mad, hopping mad, but can he hop as high as a rabbit, or stomp as hard as a bear? There are so many ways anger can be expressed that in expressing it (or not), you might find that you’re not as angry anymore. A funny, engaging story, kids will love trying to hop and shout and roll around as well as the other animals (but maybe keep it for daytime reading instead of bedtime).
The Cloud by Hannah Cumming
Art class is supposed to be fun and creative, you can draw anything you like! But one little girl just doesn’t want to take part. She sits in the corner and no one ever talks to her. Except someone does… An adorable story about being inclusive and making friends. When you have a cloud over your head, you might need a friend to blow it away.
My NO, NO, NO Day! by Rebecca Patterson
Everyone has bad days, you know the ones. Your hair won’t do what you want, you get stuck in traffic jams or train delays, then, to top it off in typical Singapore-style, it starts pouring with rain. Kids have them too, but they can’t just down an espresso, plaster on a smile, and move on like we can. They simply have to let it out. In My NO NO NO Day, every little thing sets this young lady off. She just can’t behave or be polite and her whole day is one big tantrum. But with some understanding and patience, she gets through the bad day, and becomes the most cheerful girl in the world.
The Boy Who Didn’t Want to Be Sad by Rob Goldblatt
There was once a boy who didn’t want to be sad. So he made a plan. He would get rid of everything that made him sad. For example, he didn’t want the tree in his favourite spot to turn bare, so he went as far away from it as possible; he didn’t want his pets to die, so he distanced himself from them. A story with a lesson for kids and adults alike: sometimes when you get rid of the things that make you sad, you will find it hard to be happy.
The Dark by Lemony Snicket
Lazlo was afraid of the dark. It sat in corners and in the closet, but mostly, it spent its time downstairs, in the basement where it lived. Lazlo visits it in its room every day, so that it doesn’t come to his room. But one day, it does. Penned by author of A Series of Unfortunate Events, with cute but impactful illustrations by Jon Klassen, kids who might find it hard to deal with fear will be reassured. Fear doesn’t have to be a monster to be conquered, but a cohabiter to be befriended.
Is a Worry Worrying You? by Ferida Wolff and Harriet May Savitz
There are so many things to worry about these days, even kids are bound to feel it a little. And their worries can come in the strangest forms, like what are you going to do if one hundred elephants come to tea but you don’t have any tea bags? But that doesn’t mean they’re not worth worrying about. In fact, this book presents a worry as a bothersome monster lurking around, but with some creative thinking, any worry can be banished.
Like this story? Here’s more we think you’ll enjoy:
Our favourite libraries for kids in Singapore
Local stories for children to add to your reading list
How to self-publish a children’s book
Best bookshops for fiction, children’s books and local literature
Favourite chapter books to read to kids