Behavior & Discipline
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This post contains a sponsored inclusion of Candlewick, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everymom editorial board.

Color the Feeling: How to Teach Kids About Emotions Through Color


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Graphics by: Caitlin Schneider
Graphics by: Caitlin Schneider

Teaching kids how to name their emotions seems like an easy task, but it’s quite a challenge when many of us weren’t taught that skill as children ourselves. Sure, we knew how to identify happiness from anger, but there’s a whole spectrum in between we just glazed over. It wasn’t until adulthood that I learned anger is typically a reaction to a different root emotion, whether that’s disappointment, jealousy, overwhelm, or something else entirely. Each of those root feelings requires different solutions, and when we correctly identify them, we can process them more effectively. A great way to help children understand this without losing their attention in 30 seconds is by teaching them how to visualize their feelings through color.

Before becoming a parent, I thought I would simply be able to verbalize what my children were feeling and that would be enough. But much like literally everything else in parenthood, it has not been as easy as I anticipated. I can say the words, “I see you’re disappointed,” 50 times a day, and it still has minimal effect. But when I show him a visualization of what disappointment feels like, it seems to click much faster. Using art and color allows kids to not only understand what they’re feeling but to express it positively. So, how exactly can you implement the color method? We’re making it easy by providing step-by-step instructions that are engaging for kids but low-lift for parents. Read on for our top tips on helping littles process emotions through color and keep scrolling to download our helpful color feelings chart for your home:

Introduce color feelings through picture books

Picture books are one of the best tools for explaining emotions to children. Through relatable narratives and artwork they won’t be able to look away from, these books engage their developing minds and help them understand complex feelings in a digestible and enjoyable way. Because finding the right words can be tricky for little ones, relying on the combination of super simple words and illustrations creates a strong starting block when conveying the nuances of emotions. Seeing their emotions displayed on the pages in front of them makes it easier for them to grasp what they’re experiencing internally. By seeing characters navigate their feelings, children can better identify and articulate their emotions, too.

One of our favorite books that’s perfect for helping kids navigate new feelings is Gray, written by Laura Dockrill and illustrated by Lauren Child. Gray is a beautiful story that uses color to explore a child’s emotions, as a little girl named Lulu feels overwhelmed and doesn’t understand why everything seems so dull and lifeless. The book uses gray to symbolize her sadness and confusion, and as Lulu begins to understand and express her feelings, colors start to reappear in her world. This story not only helps children see how emotions can color their world but also encourages them to assign specific colors to their feelings, making it easier to recognize and talk about them with others.

gray candlewick book
written by Laura Dockrill, illustrated by Lauren Child
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written by Launika Arya Raykar
Kairav’s Colorful Feelings
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written by Anna Llenas
The Color Monster: A Story About Emotions
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Take action with color activities

Using art and imaginative games as an emotional outlet is an easy, accessible, and healthy way to help kids grow. These activities provide a safe and engaging way for your little ones to express their feelings non-verbally, which can be especially beneficial when they’re still learning how to articulate their thoughts. When children use art and play to explore their bigger feelings, they can process complex emotions more effectively and develop better emotional intelligence overall, and there are multiple ways to incorporate this into your daily routines. Here are just a few examples:

Paint the emotion

By giving children different paint colors and asking them to create a picture of how they feel, they can visually express their emotions and easily display what they’re struggling to find the words for. For instance, they might use blue for sadness, red for anger, or yellow for happiness, as well as big strokes for overwhelming feelings and smaller strokes when they feel calm or timid. This method is recommended by many educators, as it gives children a free-form way to explore their feelings without restrictions.

Play feelings charades

Playing a game of feelings charades is another great activity for exploring new feelings. In this game, kids can act out different emotions while others guess what they are feeling. To incorporate color, they can act out emotions associated with different colors, which will also allow them to learn how their peers interpret certain colors and emotions in their own ways. This game not only makes learning about emotions fun and interactive but also helps kids understand the physical expressions of different feelings.

Emotion-based crafts

Emotion-based crafts offer another hands-on way for kids to explore their feelings. Activities like creating emotion masks or piecing together a feelings collage from magazine and newspaper clippings can allow children to physically manipulate materials while thinking about their emotions. For a ton of different craft ideas that help little ones with expressing feelings and emotions, check out this list of ideas.

Provide visual references through a color feelings chart

Color feelings charts are incredibly helpful tools for helping children identify and understand their emotions. These charts typically associate different colors with various feelings, providing a visual reference that kids can use to pinpoint how they’re personally feeling. This is particularly useful during the early stages of a meltdown, as children can quickly refer to the chart to help them communicate their emotions.

To maximize the effectiveness of a color feelings chart, we recommend placing it in accessible locations like the playroom, the child’s bedroom, or the fridge to ensure that it’s always within reach when a child needs it. Displaying it in a high-traffic location also reinforces the habit of checking in with their emotions regularly. By integrating this visual aid into their daily routine, kids can learn to manage their feelings more effectively and consistently. Using color to teach emotions not only makes the learning process fun but also provides children with a practical tool they can use throughout their lives.

Click to download our printable Color Feelings Chart!

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This post contains a sponsored inclusion of Candlewick, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everymom editorial board.