Discussion Prompt Bookmarks- Helping little ones explore emotions in picture books

Even adults struggle to identify and deal with emotions at times, so it is understandable that children struggle with it too. Not being able to identify and deal with emotions can cause our little ones to act out in frustration. This activity is a simple way to assist kids in understanding their feelings.

Cam and I chat about books all the time. I don’t fire questions at her or test her comprehension, but we just love to talk about all the little details we notice in our favourite books. Books just seemed like the perfect place to start talking about feelings and emotions.

We recently engaged in some fun book-inspired activities that required paper squares. I cut some of our coloured paper to create the squares, and had these scraps left over.

Don’t they just scream bookmarks?

At first I thought that Cam and I didn’t read enough chapter books to warrant turning these colourful scraps into bookmarks, but then I had a second (and wonderful) thought.

Bookmarks don’t have to be used solely for the purpose of keeping your place. They can be used to identify particular pages in a book- even in a picture book.

I thought we might be ready to talk about how characters feel and also how books make us feel when we read them, and I wanted to create some prompts to assist our discussions. So I set out to turn these five colourful scraps into five discussion-prompt bookmarks.

I decided that I would choose five emotions that Cam was familiar with. I asked Cam to think about what her face might look like when she feels:

  • Happy
  • Angry
  • Scared
  • Sad
  • Or when she finds something funny

I captured these faces on camera. We had so much fun and, boy, does Cammy know how to pull an angry face!!!

I fiddled with the photos on PicMonkey to create some emotion prompt labels. These became the labels for each bookmark.

We also added two strips of adhesive-backed magnetic tape to the inside of the bookmarks too. It helps the bookmark attach itself to a page, but it also gives us a new science concept to explore.


  • Can you find a [scary] page?: Select an emotion bookmark yourself and ask your child if they can find a page for that bookmark.
  • How did this book make you feel?: After reading a book, lay the bookmarks in a row and ask your child how the book made them feel.  The images will give them some options to choose from; they might start by choosing one bookmark. Then ask them to find one page in the book that made them feel that way. Spend some time on that page- looking for clues and details in the illustrations or text.

  • How did the character feel in this story?: Similar to the idea above, after reading the book, lay the bookmarks in a row and ask your child how they think the character felt in the book.
  • After your child starts to understand how to identify emotions, you can then try seeing if more than one emotion is explored in a book. Again, find a page for each emotion bookmark.

  • Can you choose a [funny] book for us to read tonight?: Use the bookmarks to help you choose a book to read. Choose an emotion from the bookmark set and then find a book that represents that emotion.

  • Do you still feel the same way?: Leave the bookmark in the book until you read it again and see if your opinion of the book changes over time.

Discussion Prompt Bookmarks- Helping little ones explore emotions in picture books


  1. Zoe said: On July 26, 2012

    A fabulous idea!

    • Thanks Zoe. We had a lot of fun making them, but they’ve certainly helped us to talk about emotions.

  2. This is so great!!! Very creative and different!

  3. A fantastic idea Jackie. Pinning and sharing. I want to create these too. (How clever is the use of those magnetic strips?!) xoxo Pauline

  4. Kelly said: On July 31, 2012

    Hee hee hee, love Cam’s scared face too! Such fun making faces about emotions :-) And I really like your bookmark idea! My Dino Boy loves making pictures with angry faces and sad faces at the moment, they are wonderfully exaggerated!

  5. Penny said: On July 31, 2012

    This is great Jackie. What a fabulous idea. Emotions are something little children (even big children) can struggle with. I love the idea of children finding the emotions on every page of a picture book. It makes them think deeper about the story and that’s a great thing!

  6. I love all the different uses you’ve shared for these bookmarks. It’s a great idea and I look forward to making some of my own! Thanks for sharing :)

  7. What a brilliant idea, I love these! Those photos are so adorable. I’m pinning this. I think R would really enjoy this and it would be such a great conversation starter. By the way, what age group would you recommend for that joke book? R is always wanting to learn new jokes these days and I don’t know any to teach him! It’s been difficult to find a book with jokes he’d understad., He’s 4.

    • Thanks Ness- Let me know how your bookmarks go too!

      I can highly recommend this joke book- it’s a great introduction to jokes for little ones. Each page featured an illustrated joke. Soon (hopefully ), I’ll be featuring/reviewing this book on My Little Bookcase.

      As for age group, I’d maybe say it’s suitable for kids aged 4-5+. Cam is 3 and she loves it. She doesn’t understand all of the jokes but she’s become quite the stand-up comedian at family events, learning about 5 jokes which she delivers beautifully.

      • The book sounds perfect for us. I’m looking forward to your review/feature. R loves jokes and like Cam, even when he doesn’t understand them, (which is most of the time!) he still delivers them perfectly and then laughs hysterically! He’s always asking me to tell him jokes and I don’t know any so I think this book might be good for us. By the way, I love these bookmarks and I’ve featured them on my blog today as one of my faves from last week’s Weekly Kids’ Co-op!

        • Ness, it sounds like R is ready to learn some jokes from this book. He’ll be a crowd pleaser. I might email the book details to you. Not sure when I’m going to get around to the review. :)

  8. This is a great idea. A lot of kids with ASD struggle with interpreting emotions and I think this would be a fun addition to their other therapy strategies. I’m pinning this to TCB on Pinterest!

  9. I’m going to have to try out this idea sometime, thanks for posting!

  10. These are wonderful! I want to add that this ‘emotions bookmark’ material would be beneficial to special needs children. My son has Down syndrome and expressing feelings verabally is really hard for him! I love your idea and I’m going to keep it in my “mommy toolbox” for future use! Awesome!

    • Thanks Lisa. I’ve had a a few people let me know that they’ve used this idea with children who have Asperger Syndrome. It’s great to know that the idea has come in handy beyond my own family.

  11. This is such an adorable way to teach kids emotion. Do you remember I asked you about that joke book last time? We have it now! R LOVES and knows all the jokes by heart. I always think of you when we read it! Featuring you on my Sunday Parenting Party post this week. Thanks for linking up.

    • That’s so wonderful. It is such an easy joke book for little ones to read and understand.
      So sorry I still haven’t got around to writing that post. :(

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Discussion Prompt Bookmarks- Helping little ones explore emotions in picture books

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