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Using the Magic of Picture Books to Explore Feelings and Emotions – The Colour monster by Anna Llenas

Young children may be little, but this doesn’t stop them from experiencing BIG feelings. Picture books can provide the perfect stimulus for exploring feelings and emotions. They enable children to find ways, along with the words needed, to express what they are feeling inside.

A perfect example of such a book is The Colour Monster by Anna Llenas. The main character, a friendly, funny little monster, begins to identify and label his feelings by linking them to different colours and experiences.

"Children who can name and understand their feelings are better able to handle the ups and downs of childhood"

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Making ‘Emotion Potions’ to explore feelings and emotions

After sharing the story, why not set up a potion laboratory in the mud kitchen or water tray? Children can experiment and begin to understand and label their feelings by making different coloured Emotion Potions that they encounter in the story. They could use resources sourced from the outdoor environment, natural food colouring, items that add sparkle and texture, or ingredients such as bicarbonate of soda to create a bubbling eruption.


Whilst creating potions in different containers or potion bottles, the children will begin to discover how their own emotions can be reflected by different colours and how these colours make them feel. Emotion potions also have the added bonus of doubling as a calming capsule. When shaken, children will often be mesmerised and feel a sense of calm as they watch the items within swirl and settle. Abstract feelings that can be difficult for children to understand or communicate can be made more tangible by introducing items such as pebbles to the potion to symbolise the heaviness of sadness, or multi-coloured objects to show mixed up emotions.

By offering a wide range of resources, children will find unique ways of expressing themselves. Creating coloured potions will spark discussions and allow children to make their own colour associations. As the children’s emotional intelligence grows, they will be able to guide their own thinking and behaviour and begin to master the skill of self-regulation as they explore in a playful and safe space.

8 activity ideas for The Colour Monster and Emotion Potions:

  1. Why not try using other resources that can be matched to the potions such as emotion stones, emojis, photographs or pictures to enhance their understanding? This activity will support children in identifying different emotions and feelings.
  2. Create labels and recipes for the potions. This could be as an adult led activity or as a challenge in the mark making/writing area.
  3. Use the emotion potions to create different role play scenarios. They could act as magical elixirs in a wizard’s lair or superhero antidotes used against villains e.g. kindness, gentleness or positivity potions.
  4. Explore the possibility of mixing different colours. What happens if we mix them together? Do we ever have mixed emotions? Great for helping children to understand that many people experience different emotions at the same time and that this is ok.
  5. Encourage the children to experiment with different movements to express their feelings such as stomping, jumping, walking slowly and rolling. Can they match the action to the correct emotion stone, picture or feeling label?
  6. Challenge the children to make potions to represent how different characters feel in their favourite stories. What colour potion would show how the Big Bad Wolf feels? Would this change as the story evolves? Would this be the same for The Three Little Pigs?
  7. Use the emotion potions as a stimulus to discuss the times when the children have experienced these feelings and how it made them feel? How can we help others when they are feeling sad, lonely or scared?
  8. Draw, paint or create a picture of what you think certain feelings might look like. This is perfect for children who might already understand emotions but need support with identifying them. What different colours would you use for sad, angry and happy? What about more complex emotions? How can we depict those artistically?

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