I teach twice a week and my students range in age from two and a half years old at the start of the year to pushing four years old by the end. That is a lot of development in one year, and that is why I find this age so much fun to teach. My school follows monthly themes but one theme that we teach and talk about all the time are emotions. I devote at least one circle time lessons a month to emotions. Here are some lessons that explore emotions at preschool.
My circle time routine starts with a good morning song, followed by our chant, a story, and then a short group activity. If the children are extra wiggly, tired, or the book is extra long I skip the activity. At three sitting for a long period isn’t just hard, it’s not natural. I want to set my students up for success and making group time fit their abilities is key to that success.
This post contains affiliate links.
Book: The Grumpy Morning
This is one of my favorite books about emotions for kids because this book doesn’t talk so much about being grumpy, it deals mostly with being impatient. The animals on the farm can’t wait for the farmer to wake up and feed them and are getting grumpy waiting. If your classroom has a farm theme during the year, this is a great book to hit that theme while discussing emotions too.
Activity: Play Red Light Green Light
You may not immediately think of this game being about emotions, but it forces little ones to wait when all they want to do it run to the end. If you have never played before here are the rules:
One person (the teacher or parent) stands on one side of a field, room, gym.
The children are at the other end. Preschoolers do best if one teacher is with them and the other calling out the colors.
The teacher explains that green means go, yellow means slow, and red means stop. I usually wait a good bit after calling our red light; I want to build their anticipation and give them a chance to work on that self-control. It’s tough!
Now with older kids, I eliminate kids who don’t slow on yellow or stop on red but with preschoolers, I just praise rule following.
With preschoolers, they are just excited to get to you and give you hugs or high fives.
Book: I Was So Mad
Mercer Mayer and his Little Critters were favorites of mine as a preschooler, and they are still relevant thirty-five years later. Kids love these characters, and the magic is in how the emotions really jump off the page with simple text perfect for young preschoolers.
Activity: Mad and Sad Sorting.
Prep: Print out these printable faces (click here to print pdf) or take photos of your students making different mad and sad faces. Cut out and laminate.
This is a great game to play when you don’t have the time, or your students don’t have the bandwidth for a long activity. Explain to them that all the photos are of people who are mad or sad, and they need to shout out that answers. I don’t know about your class, but mine love it when I encourage them to shout it out!
Shuffle the card and start slow giving the children a chance to look and shout out their answer. Then start speeding up. Feel free to go through the faces a few times as you get faster and faster. This is supposed to be silly and fun, but the lesson won’t be lost because of it.
The Pigeon is well known for his temper tantrums that preschoolers think are hilarious, but this book includes more emotions. Familiar book characters can be a great way of getting kids engaged in talking about emotions.
Activity: How do they feel?
Prep: Print out these printable faces (click here to print) or take photos of your students making different mad and sad faces. Cut out and laminate. Pop the photos in a basket or bag and pull one out at a time. Ask the children how the child feels. They can yell it out or mimic the feeling as their answer. This is a GREAT activity with very young groups, and you can keep it going for a long time if they are into it and cut it short if they are wiggly. Also, it makes a great activity put out at free choice for the children to explore on their own.
Pop the photos in a basket or bag and pull one out at a time. Ask the children how the child feels. They can yell it out or mimic the feeling as their answer. This is a GREAT activity with very young groups, and you can keep it going for a long time if they are into it and cut it short if they are wiggly. Also, it makes a great activity put out at free choice for the children to explore on their own.
Book: The Feelings Book
Todd Parr is one of my favorite authors for a good reason, his simple books cut to the heart of whatever topic he is tackling. What I love about this book is that it talks about how we all feel different emotions sometimes. But, sometimes we are mad or sad or silly! The bright colors capture your audience as well.
Activity: How Would YOU feel?
Prep: Print out these printable pictures (click to print), cut out and laminate.
Show the photos one at a time to the children and ask them how they would feel. For example:
How would you feel if you had to hug your mom goodbye?
How would you feel if you got to open a birthday gift?
Ask the children to make the face to tell you how they would feel if this happened to them. This is a tough exercise for some kids, and that’s OK, some other children will latch on to it easily and between their example and your lead you will provide the kids that don’t a great scaffold.
I will usually mention one or two children with each picture. “Wow, Sally I see your sad face! If you had to hug your mom goodbye, you would feel very sad.”
Make sure you use the cards or something else concrete for this activity because young children are still developing their ability to think hypothetically. They need that real object to put themselves into the situation.
I am not sure if I need to mention this, but please remember only to use photos that will prompt discussion not elicit a huge emotional response. If you have students with separation anxiety skip the photo with a child saying goodbye until they are done with that stage.
Book: The Way I Feel
I read this book most often when talking about emotions with students. It is so comprehensive, and the rhyming text makes it a fun read aloud too. It is a longer book so I will pick 4-5 emotions to read one time and then switch it up for another reason with very young preschoolers. While I read this book, I try to match my body to the emotions as well as my face.
Activity: Emotion Action Song.
The song is a variation on the classic “If You Are Happy, And You Know It.”
When I sing this, I over exaggerate my faces. And I encourage the children to make the faces along with the body language. So often we focus emotion lessons only on faces, but children’s bodies tell us how they are feeling too.
If you are happy, and you know it clap your hands
If you are happy, and you know it clap your hands
If you are happy, and you know it, then your face will surely show it
If you are happy, and you know it, clap your hands.
Now replace happy with different emotions:
Mad – cross your arms.
Frustrated – stomp your feet.
Excited – jump up and down.
Sad – make a frown
Scared – hide your face.
Do you have any other suggestions on books about feelings that would go well with this circle time lesson? Stop over on Facebook and let me know!
If you like this circle time activity, you will love the ideas and circle time lessons I share in Little School my eBook of preschool activities.