Kimochis – toys with feelings

Range of four Kimochi plush toys

One of my sons is an anxious little soul. When he was about three years old it became apparent that certain situations were more stressful for him than for other children. It broke my heart that my little boy was ‘worrying’ when, relatively speaking, there was nothing in his world that was really that stressful. Naturally I started looking for ways to reassure him, to ease his ‘worries’ and to help him communicate what he was thinking. We employed lots of strategies because it can be difficult for children to articulate what they are feeling when they are so young. It would have been considerably easier had we approached each day with Kimochis.

We first reviewed Kimochis in 2008. The characters have since been significantly redeveloped and a curriculum program to support the teaching of ‘emotional intelligence’ created.

Kimochis were created by Nina Rappaport-Rowan, an award-winning producer of animated movies. Rappaport-Rowan was aware that single moments can change the way you view the world and for her that moment was the horrific Columbine High School shootings in 1999. It made her question why children had become so disconnected and self-destructive. Teaming up with US child-communication expert Ellen Pritchard Dodge, Kimochis were born as a means of opening an emotional dialogue between parents or teachers and children from a young age and in doing so, helping them build character and confidence.

‘Kimochi’ means ‘feeling’ in Japanese and ‘kimochis’ are what comes inside each of the sweet, plush characters in the collection. Kimochis are small pillows with a feeling printed on one side and a corresponding facial expression on the other. There are twenty-five feelings in the collection including one ‘make-your-own’ feeling. Emotions range from the obvious such as mad, happy, sad and scared to the subtle – curious, left out, embarrassed, sorry, kind, brave and grateful. The opportunity to explain the subtleties of emotions using Kimochis is fantastic. For example a three-year-old’s temper tantrum could be caused by feeling mad, cranky, frustrated or jealous. As adults we can articulate the differences between those feelings but for a young child that can be difficult and Kimochis can help.

The plush characters complete the Kimochi story. Each has their own characteristics and each has a little pocket for whatever they are ‘feeling’ at any particular time. I immediately recognised my son in Bug. Bug is a little timid, afraid of change and tucks his wings away when he is feeling uncertain. He comes with the feelings brave, happy and left out– I know my son needs an extra dose of ‘brave’ every so often.

Other characters include Cloud who is a bit moody and unpredictable, Cat who is a little bossy and known to get into a few fights and Huggtopus who is very friendly but needs to learn about boundaries. Add to the characters with packs of mixed feelings.

For parents wishing to explore and encourage emotional intelligence with their young children, Kimochis provide a perfect starting point so go on, get your ‘curious’ out!

Kimochi plush characters are through The Toy Bug for $49.95. Mixed feeling packs are $19.95. Contact Kimochis Australia directly for other retailers in your state.

Katrina Whelen

Katrina studied planning and design, did the hard yards working in a big office building and then traded it all in for a relaxing (!) life at home with four children. She now fills her time with writing, completing a degree in genetics and taxiing her children around Melbourne to their various sporting commitments (not necessarily in that order).

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