Elevate Your Parenting: Boosting Your Child’s EQ Through Play
by Talia Filippelli
Talia is the owner and founder of Starr Therapy in Hoboken, New Jersey. She is known for her solution-focused therapy approach and fearless mission to make seeing a therapist something that people brag about! She has been featured as a mental health expert on CBS and CNN, and was voted a "Top Kids Doc" by NJ Family Magazine for the past 8 years. She is also a Certified Holistic Health Coach and Certified Personal Trainer. To find out more information, check out www.StarrTherapy.com.
Play is one of the best ways to teach kids just about anything, and expressing emotions is no exception. From learning to cope, building resilience and practicing empathy, learning to manage emotions helps little hearts grow bigger and stronger, building the foundation for a healthy adulthood. What’s more, play is an excellent tool to promote relaxation, encourage positive emotions, and provide moments of joy to offset and relieve life’s everyday stresses — for both kids and adults!
For more helpful play ideas and inspiration on growing your child’s EQ through play, check out The Genius of Play’s Emotional Wellness Playbook, available to download at www.thegeniusofplay.org.
Emotional Intelligence, or EQ, has been a growing area of research thanks to psychologist Daniel Goleman’s groundbreaking book published in 1995. Since its release, there have been consistent studies confirming the importance and value of these skills, especially when taught during early childhood.
I know what you’re thinking: SURE! Just add another thing to the infinite list of parenting goals I’m already working on with my kids! But, I assure you, each of the five components of EQ can be role-modeled and taught during your normal play routines — a win-win for you and your kids!
Let’s get the basics down first. Dan Goleman identified five components of emotional intelligence: emotional self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. It’s been shown that children with high EQ earn better grades, stay in school longer and make healthier choices overall. Teachers also report that high-EQ students are more cooperative and make better leaders in the classroom.
Additionally, having a high emotional intelligence is a greater predictor of career success than having a high IQ, which means it’s valued by employers looking for candidates who can complete work and get along with people in progressively collaborative workplaces.
So, what do EQ skills look like when used successfully in real life? The emotionally intelligent child is one who can label his own emotions accurately, regulate them and control reactions to them. For example, he can verbalize his anger or disappointment about losing a board game and think of ways to defuse those feelings rather than hitting his brother.
This is going to become your parenting “special sauce” and it won’t take long to see the results in your household. And don’t worry, we have a shortcut for you!
I have recently collaborated with the Genius of Play – a non-profit initiative that aims to help parents raise healthy and happy kids through the power of play – on the “Emotional Wellness Playbook”, a free resource for families. The playbook provides parents and caregivers with play-based, screen-free activities that help kids ages 3 and up develop emotional intelligence and learn to express their feelings in a healthy way.
Here's a sneak peek at a couple of activities from the playbook:
Focus area: Emotional Self-Awareness
Emoji Bingo – A great twist on the classic game that helps kids practice labelling and expressing emotions while having fun!
How will this help my child now? The simple act of labeling or naming emotions as we’re feeling them helps children (and parents!) halt the fight-or-flight response that often leads to overwhelm, and instead, activates the higher-level processing part of our brain that helps us calm down and feel a greater sense of control.
How will this help my child in the future? Over time, this practice strengthens children’s capacity to feel big emotions without getting completely overwhelmed by them.
Focus area: Self-Regulation
DIY Calming Bottle – An excellent tool for children that promotes relaxation and stress relief.
How will this help my child now? Calming bottles provide an opportunity for your child to create a personalized tool (think snow globe) that serves as a vehicle to practice deep breathing, an essential coping skill for life. Once it’s complete, the calming bottle will serve as your child’s go-to when feeling stressed or anxious. The child shakes up the bottle, and practices deep breathing until all the glitter falls to the bottom of the bottle.
How will this help my child in the future? Deep breathing is directly linked with our body’s nervous system. The practice of deep breathing in response to big emotions has been shown to improve confidence in the face of adversity, improve attention and behavior, reduce depression and anxiety, increase school performance, and enhance sleep.