Level 2: Big Feelings Unit

There is so much more to holistic intelligence than just math and reading. In this special unit study, we’ll be exploring and strengthening your child’s emotional intelligence, delving deeper into some of the big feelings we all experience from time to time. From anger and gratitude to anxiety and resilience, we hope your whole family will walk away from this week with a deeper appreciation for emotions—and each other. Click here for our printable tracker for this week.

Note: Occasionally we include project upgrades (which can be useful for children looking for more of a challenge). We’ll mark those with the plus (+) symbol.

What you need:

Books (find at your local library or order below on Amazon):

Optional additional reading:

  • Thanku: Poems of Gratitude by Miranda Paul – Want to build out your collection of poetry? This lovely book is full of poems that inspire gratitude and thankfulness.

Supplies (use what you have, but here are links to shop if you need anything):

What to do:

We recommend doing the below lessons in this order to build on each skill your child will develop, but don’t feel that you *need* to do them in this order. Do what works for you and your child. If they love an activity, feel free to repeat! Not a winner? Skip and try the next thing. Have fun!

Lesson 1:

Frustration is a big emotion that can get the best of all of us. But did you know that experiencing (and celebrating!) frustration and failures can actually have a positive effect on your child’s ability to persevere? This is called having a growth mindset, or believing that your talents and abilities can be improved upon through hard work, good strategies, and input from others. (source) Let’s learn more about it by reading Your Fantastic Elastic Brain.

Activity 1: Let’s practice strengthening our growth mindsets with this balancing STEM activity. Encourage your child to try all of their ideas without worrying so much if they will work or not. If something fails, celebrate what you learned from that failure! Then try a new idea.
(+) Want to keep the learning going? Consider adding a “brag about a failure” moment to your week. Once a week at dinner or another occasion when you’re all together, have everyone brag about a mistake they made that week and what they learned from it!

Activity 2: It’s not always easy to keep trying when we don’t see an immediate reward. Let’s illustrate the importance of perseverence by making these “perseverence balls” using plastic wrap and a small candy, fruit snack, or marshmallow. (Bonus: This is also a great way to strengthen fine motor skills!)

Activity 3: It can be a challenge to recover from a failure. Let’s learn how a famous character picked himself back up again in After the Fall, the story of how Humpty Dumpty got back up again. Then let’s try another problem solving STEM challenge with an egg drop activity! This post has great ideas to get you started. (Note: We recommend putting your eggs in plastic bags before dropping to minimize the mess!)

Lesson 2:

Another big emotion that can trip us up? Anger! Learning and developing patience can be a challenge for little kids, so today’s lesson will help them learn to identify anger and come up with a toolbox of strategies to manage it. Start by reading When Miles Got Mad. As you discuss the book, talk about the impact Miles’ anger had on himself and the peopel around him.

Activity 1: What is anger? What does it feel like? Let’s illustrate it with an object lesson. Start by asking your child a few questions, like:

  • What kinds of things make your angry?
  • How does it feel to be angry?
  • What do you do with those angry feelings?

Next, take out two balloons and explain to your child that sometimes when we feel anger, we might start holding a lot of feelings inside, like fear, jealousy, frustration, resentment, etc. (As you name each emotion, add a little more air to the balloon.) These feelings can swirl around inside us, getting bigger and bigger until we feel ready to burst!

Now, ask your child what would happen if you kept adding air to the balloon. (It would either burst or escape and blow all around the room.) Demonstrate these results. Talk about the difference between the reactions and how it’s like anger. Finally, ask them what would be a safer way to get the anger out of the balloon. (Letting it out slowly!) Talk about some anger coping strategies that your family can use to deal with anger in a healthy way, and then try the next two activities.

Activity 2: Finding a safe, physical way to express big feelings is incredibly effective to help children self-regulate. (You can learn more about it in this post about helping your child to find a sensory rhythm for their day.) Help your child find methods to cope with anger with these animal-inspired ways to regulate emotions.

Activity 3: Never underestimate the power of a few deep “dragon” breaths for coping with anger. Let’s bring them to life with this fire-breathing dragon craft.

Lesson 3:

Worries are tiny things that can have a big impact on our emotions! Let’s learn about how they can take over—and how we can fight back—in Ruby Finds a Worry.

Activity 1: The tricky part about big feelings is that we don’t always feel them one at a time. Sometimes this mix of emotions can make us anxious, but it can be helpful to learn to identify what’s happening. Let’s illustrate how our feelings can mix with this sensory slime activity. (Note: If you’re not a slime person (we get it!), you can do the same thing by mixing playdough or colored rice in a sensory bin.)

Activity 2: Do you ever feel worried or anxious? Let’s illustrate the power of these ‘what if’ thoughts with the food coloring activity in this post. Now, let’s focus on our courage by making the bravery shield in the same post.

Activity 3: For our art lesson this week, we’ll take a closer look at an artist who embodied bravery in many different ways—Frida Kahlo! Start by watching this brief video about her life and all she overcame as an artist. Frida was especially famous for her self-portraits, like this one with her parrots. Next, let’s make our own Frida Kahlo-inspired self-portrait collages. We’ll use this idea for our inspiration. Start by having your child draw some of their favorite things. These can be foods, people, pets, hobbies—whatever makes them feel happy and brave! Next, have them draw a self-portrait. Cut the items and the portrait out and let your child layer them into a self-portrait collage like you see in the example. They may also want to add flowers or other 3-dimensional items to decorate their portraits!
(+) Feeling crafty? These felt flower crowns are also inspired by Frida Kahlo’s work—and they’re great for inspiring imaginative play.

Lesson 4:

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, even if you have not experienced them yourself. (Sympathy is similar, but it means you share the feelings that another is experiencing.) Let’s begin to explore the idea of others having different feelings—and how we can be empathetic to them—by reading The Boy with the Big Big Feelings.

Activity 1: Can the words we say and things we do affect others? Let’s illustrate it with a “wrinkled heart” activity. Start by cutting out a heart shape from a piece of cardstock or construction paper. Ask your child to think of unkind things they could say or do to another person. As you make the list, have your child fold or crinkle the paper a bit with each thought or action. Next, ask them to smooth out the paper. (They won’t be able to smooth it completely.) Explain that this is how words and actions affect other people—often you can’t completely take back the hurtful result, so it’s better to think how we could affect someone else before speaking or taking action.

Activity 2: Kindness paper chain. This can be a great activity to keep going throughout the year. Each time your child does a kind deed or experiences an act of kindness, add a link! At the end of the school year, see how many acts of kindness you have been a part of.

Activity 3: Let’s use our powers of creativity and engineering for good with this empathy invention STEM challenge.

Activity 4: Need a quick act of kindness to get your paper chain started? Bake up some of these simple cookies to share with a friend or neighbor. (Note: Any cookie recipe will do here, so use whatever one works best for your family!)

Activity 5: If you purchased the Thanku poetry book, save a few cookies for some gratitude-themed Tea + Poetry!

Lesson 5:

One of the best superpowers we know for combatting negative emotions is the power of gratitude! Today, we’ll focus on some fun ideas to foster thankfulness in your child. Let’s start by reading the book Thank You, Omu!

Activity 1: Gratitude tree craft.

Activity 2: Let’s show a little gratitude while working on handwriting with these printable thank-you notes.

Activity 3: As your child writes their cards, let’s end our week with a fun song about being grateful for friendship! This song is called “Thank You for Being a Friend” by Andrew Gold (though grownups might know this version a little better!). 😉

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Published by learnandliveletter

The Learn + Live Letter is a play- and project-based homeschool curriculum for children ages 3-11.

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