Helping Kids Process Their Pandemic Emotions

A Falls Church teacher's soft strategy for encouraging kids to express their feelings.

0322 Good Stuff KimojisThe pandemic has unleased a tidal wave of emotions—grief, frustration, boredom, anxiety, restlessness, sadness, loneliness. Now, imagine experiencing such intense emotions as a kindergartner.

Mount Daniel Elementary School teacher Lisa Murphy was in a staff meeting last year when she first heard about Kimochis, a line of plush toys designed to help kids understand their emotions. (Kimochi is the Japanese word for feeling; the parent company is based in San Francisco.)

The characters include Cloud, who has unpredictable mood shifts; Bug, a caterpillar who is afraid of change; and Lovey Dove, a bird who feels anxious when others are unkind. Each plushie has a pouch in which children can place “feeling pillows”—emoticons with different facial expressions or words—to recognize that feelings originate inside.

“These 5-year-olds experience really big emotions,” Murphy says. “I think in the context of the pandemic, they’re needing to process all these really confusing things.”

Wanting to help her students cope, Murphy applied for and won a $1,000 grant from the Falls Church Education Foundation (FCEF), a nonprofit that raises and distributes supplemental funds to Falls Church City Public School educators. The funds allowed her to order a collection of Kimochis, plus worksheets and lesson plans, which she began using in the classroom in January.

“The kids love them,” she says. So far, they’ve prompted conversations about feeling happy, embarrassed, proud, left out and shy.

Categories: Education