Lesson Plan: Pillow Full of Feelings


Sad, scared, surprised, angry, happy, sleepy. Helping children name an emotion strengthens their ability to manage their own behaviour when they are experiencing strong feelings. In addition, this skill bolsters their ability to be attentive to other people’s emotions, show concern, be more helpful and develop healthy relationships.

A Vancouver elementary school and local public library[1] teamed up to create the Pillow Full of Feelings Project. Using simple props (a felt pillow and cut out felt emotion faces) children and parents engaged in a number of interactive games that successfully sparked conversations about emotion and widened emotional vocabulary. Watch the video to learn more about the project and benefits.  Follow the links below for the Pillow Full of Feelings Game Instructions, or download the full Lesson Plan below.

  1. Guessing Game[2]

  1. Emotion Stories[3]

  1. With a Book[4]

  1. With a Song[5]

Want to do your own Heart-Mind Project? Be intentional and explicit in a number of ways:

  1. Identify the Heart-Mind qualities your project will promote.

  2. Talk to all participants about which elements of your project will enhance Heart-Mind well-being.

  3. Identify how you will know whether or not these Heart-Mind qualities are enhanced?

  4. Over time, continue talking about what evidence you are seeing that your project is having a positive impact on Heart- Mind well-being.

  5. Celebrate your success! Share your discoveries with others.

Learn more from this blog about Maple Grove Elementary and West Point Grey Vancouver Public Library Branch's collaborative Heart-Mind project.

Guessing Game:  

1. Take the pillow and place it in your or your child’s lap. 
2. Pull a face from a bag and while still holding it in your hand and have the child guess what emotion it represents.
3. After a few guesses, put the face on the pillow and talk about the emotion.
4. Enhance the learning moment by expressing the emotion with your own face and inviting the child to do the same.

Emotion Stories:

1. Give names to all the face cut-outs (use your own name, family, friends or made-up names).
2. Make up a story or use a real-life situation to talk about how you (or your child) felt and use the faces to talk about the corresponding emotions.
3. Try changing the “end” of a story – for example, does every situation invite the same emotional response?

With a Book:

1. Read a story to your child and then repeat the story using the faces as characters. 

2. Ask: What did the characters feel? How did they express their emotions?

With a Song:
1. Sing a song such as “5 Little Ducks went Swimming One Day” 
2. Use the pillow and faces to represent the characters in the song. For example talk about what mother duck felt when her little ducks did not come back and why mother duck’s last “Quack” was so loud.

  • Secure and Calm

    Secure and calm describes the ability to take part in daily activities and approach new situations without being overwhelmed with worries, sadness or anxiety. To be secure and calm also means being able to cope with stress and pressure, and to bounce back from difficulties.
  • Gets Along with Others

    Getting along with others is the ability to form positive and healthy relationships with peers and adults. Children with better abilities to regulate their emotions and behaviours have more friends and experience more positive playtime with their peers.
  • Alert and Engaged

    Being alert and engaged is the ability to manage and direct one's own feelings, thoughts and emotions. In general, the ability to be 'present' and to exercise self-control.
  • Compassionate and Kind

    Being compassionate and kind is closely related to empathy. While empathy refers more generally to the ability to take the perspective of and to feel the emotions of another person, compassion goes one step further.
  • Solves Problems Peacefully

    Managing conflict effectively is about creating an atmosphere where violence and aggression are not likely. To resolve conflict means using empathy, problem-solving skills, understanding other points of view and coming up with ways to make things right in a fair way.