By Natasha White
February. The month when all that mushy emotional stuff is celebrated. An overwhelming amount of Valentine's Day cards and gifts line the shelves of the shops and what colour strikes us most? Red. Maybe pink. Clearly, we have come to associate a particular colour with love, just as we load all other colours with meanings and feelings.
Anna Llenas, a Barcelona based illustrator and author, explores this in her beautiful book, The Colour Monster(Templar Publishing).
A rather confused little monster is feeling a little muddled inside. Luckily, he has a friend, a little girl, who helps him sort through and focus on each emotion separately. As they work to place each emotion in a jar, Llenas cleverly provides several perspectives from which to explore the feelings in greater depth:
Label: the emotion is given a name
Describe: uses a metaphor or simile to create a comparison to a concrete object or noun
Action: shows how it can manifest and what it can feel like
Once the feelings are sorted and understood, the monster begins to feel better. He even starts to feel a warm and cosy feeling. He is surrounded by a mixture of pink flowers and hearts and the reader is asked: 'But what's this?' Something I think we can all recognise...
Importantly, the monster's private feelings are linked back towards seeking social engagement. The little girl suggests ways in which he can 'deal' with the different emotions and most of them stress the importance of 'togetherness', such as holding hands.
As a result, the book could be used as a classroom or therapy tool; The Colour Monster provides a fun platform to teach emotional literacy.
Some tips for teaching your child emotional literacy skills:
For the younger ones:
Create and colour your own colour monster and label the feelings
Make colour cards for the child to signal how they are feeling today
Make your own jars and put coloured counters or items in to describe feelings
Contextualise: think about times when they felt the different emotions. There is also an official activity book available, which puts the colour monster in different situations and asks you to colour him in to illustrate his emotion.
Discuss practical strategies to cope with emotions
For the older ones:
Consider empathy: learn that you can inspire feelings in other people too
Explore why did the little girl want to help her monster friend
Explore what happens when more than one feeling gets mixed up together