Play is a part of children's world. Teaching them about feelings and emotional regulation should fit into that world to help them understand and use the skills in a natural way. Whether it is a formal board game or just some creative family fun, the interactions with have with our kids give them opportunities to watch, learn, and practice emotional regulation skills that lead to stronger emotional intelligence.
You don't have to spend a lot of money to do this - in fact the biggest expense it time. If you can carve out even one day during the week to set aside 30-60 minutes for game time it will be something, I guarantee, that your kids will look forward to every week. Even better, if you make a short conversational game about feelings during a meal each day you can practice naming feelings and talking about strategies everyone uses to manage them! Try being creative by having each person add a part to a story then retell the whole thing at the end.
It's easy to find games for older kids but sometimes it can be a bit of a challenge to find games that younger children (preschool and kindergarten) can participate in without losing attention or having meltdowns!
HERE ARE 5 GAMES you can play with your young children to encourage emotional regulation!
This classic game is a great way to introduce young kids to the idea of managing emotions. The game repeatedly sends the players back to the start then moves them forward throughout the game which demands flexibility in thinking and frustration tolerance as other players "target" them to return home. Practicing inhibition of responses and social communkcation is a key skill in this game. We find that emotions run high when we play this game at home but, it is also a GREAT way to keep modeling and practicing tools we talk about all the time!
We have all played it..that game that gives you the butterflies before the music even starts? This is a game that not only teaches frustration tolerance when you can't get to the chair you want but also patience and managing jealousy when you have to wait for the others to "win". Empathy and understanding social boundaries is also happening as you need to understand that, even though you may push into someone's physical bubble, you have to use empathic skills to understand that they might be disappointed.
We have found that this game is best played with a mix of ages and with teams divided evenly into younger and older participants. It gives the younger kiddos a chance to watch and learn skills but still participate. Since Charades is played in teams it is often young children's first opportunities to see teamwork in action in a game format. Most games tend to be competitive in nature and have only one winner. This is a great way for them to practice cooperative problem solving, flexibility in thinking (you can't always have the right answer) and a great way for understanding how to read nonverbal cues from others!
This game is like CLUE but for younger kids. A fox stole a pot pie, and you have to figure out which fox it was before they escape into the foxhole.
It encourages players to work together to solve the problem which requires listening and communicating with each other, Flexibility (listening and trying different ideas other than your own), and creative planning and problem solving.
Hoot Owl Hoot
In this game, players cooperate to help the owls fly back to their nest before the sun comes up. Help all the owls home before sunrise and everyone wins!
It requires kids to work together to match items so they need to utilize social communication and flexible thinking but still need to be creative in their ideas to plan and problem solve.
Any of the above mentioned games are great to help reinforce emotional intelligence skills but, in reality, all you really need to do is spend time in creative play with your kids and you will find that they naturally create a lot of these opportunities. Read, play cards, tell stories together. Every time you find a way to carve out quality time doing these types of activities you not only are teaching and reinforcing these skills but, you are giving them a clear message that they matter and they are worth your time! Play on everyone 🙂