Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence was one of the most influential books I read in college – I still have my marked-up copy from 2001! In the book, Goleman explains why emotional intelligence can matter more than IQ. Here are a few things I do to help my kids develop emotional intelligence:
- Free play: I try to make sure they have time for free play every single day. This can actually be hard to do during the school year, but I feel like play is a very important way for my kids to process their day, everything they learned at school, and the emotions that they felt and witnessed during the day.
- Pretend play: This is really part of free play, but small world and role playing are two pretend play mechanisms that kids use to explore emotions within a safe context. I’ve noticed that my kids’ toys are really whiney sometimes – and I’ll take that over my own kids whining!
- Family time: Kids learn so much through healthy family interactions! When parents get upset, kids watch to see how parents express those emotions. When my kids see me navigating stresses in my own life in a healthy way, they are more likely to respond healthily to stresses in their own lives.
- Picture books: Picture books are great ways for kids to safely explore emotions – and, so long as you live near a library, you can find great kids’ books on nearly every topic, from bullying to welcoming a new baby into your family.
- Label emotions: As soon as an emotion has a name, it loses some of its power. Naming how a child feels is often the first step to moving past the intensity of the emotion towards problem solving. We use toys (like the Button Bot from ALEX Toys in the image at the top of this post) and pictures in books to talk about feelings and reasons characters might have these feelings. For younger kids, I like really defined emotions, but now that my kids are getting older I enjoy more neutral faces that can be interpreted in different ways by different kids in different circumstances so that we can explore more complex emotions. The Button Bot has different faces you can swap in and out; the one below could be interpreted as frustrated, scared, or startled, depending on your child’s story line:
How do you teach your kids emotional intelligence?
I am an ALEX Toys blogger and receive product from them as part of that agreement, including the Button Bot featured in this post. All opinions are my own.