As children move on their journey to becoming well-rounded adults, it’s important to nurture emotional intelligence (EQ) as much as their IQ. Healthy mental awareness is a skill set that will carry them forward in their relationships and careers. And a great resource to help parents and educators teach these early lessons in an age-appropriate way is by playing games for social-emotional learning.
So how can parents and teachers measure the effectiveness of a game designed to teach social-emotional learning (SEL)?
“First of all, you’d see noticeable changes in a student’s behavior,” Harvey Deutschendorf, an Emotional Intelligence Expert, speaker, and author of The Other Kind of Smart tells Parentology. “That might include increased cooperation with other students and teachers, increased self-awareness of their own thoughts and actions, and a noticeable increase in concern for other students and teachers.” He adds that other tangible evidence includes an increase in class participation and higher grades.
Hands-on games are engaging and fun, and can help children easily understand what it is that they’re supposed to be learning.
There are some very important SEL skills that these specific games can teach:
Learning to identify and understand the social cues of others is essential to building positive relationships. Understanding body language and facial expressions can help children identify how others feel and think.
Equally as critical, self-awareness helps children identify and understand their own feelings. Some games give kids the opportunity to improve their emotional vocabulary by discussing “feeling” words and what they mean. It also helps normalize talking about, expressing, and being comfortable with emotions.
The ability to understand and be aware of one’s own feelings as well as the feelings and thoughts of others — and the ability to co-experience those feelings — is an important skill throughout one’s entire life. Empathy is built through understanding others and ultimately becomes a pipeline for career success when children become adults. Empathy is quickly becoming one of the most important skills of the 21st century because it improves one’s capacity to communicate with others, to be part of a team, and to develop better leadership skills.
Teamwork is a critical skill for all age groups. Whether your child is playing a team sport, working on a group project, or playing a game with friends at home, learning to work together as a team teaches communication, listening, and turn-taking, all of which are skills that spill over into every facet of their lives.
Emotional intelligence can help students cope with disappointment, failure, stress, and hardship. By learning effective techniques for developing resilience at an early age, children are able to recover much faster from tough situations.
“When students develop resilience, they increase their ability to keep going, despite setbacks and failures,” says Deutschendorf.
Suggestions for SEL Games
There are a number of online and tactile games that can be used for social-emotional learning. For early learners, Hoyle Games distributes a number of great card games for teaching kids social skills.
Monkey May I? – Aimed at kids aged 4-6, Monkey May I? is an emotional intelligence game loosely based on Simon Says. For every “good decision” the player makes, they earn “monkey money.” Whoever accrues the most money at the end of the game wins, but the bigger takeaway is how this game reinforces your child’s social skills like making good choices, self-awareness and self-control.
Teaches: Self-Awareness, Self-Control, and Good Decision Making
Super Me! – Also directed at 4-6 year-olds, Super Me! includes elements of kid-favorites like Memory and Matching. Each player takes turns flipping over an “emergency” card and matching a scenario card to the emergency. The process reinforces social skills such as making good choices, helping others, and having empathy.
Teaches: Empathy, How to Help Others, and Positive Social Skills
Mixed Emojis – This game ages a bit older (6-8) and encourages recognizing and expressing emotions, while helping bring out your child’s creative side. Players take turns placing a card face up on top of the previous card, making a face, and giving an example of when they feel that emoji.
Teaches: Recognizing and Expressing Emotions, Memory, and Listening Skills
Seal Squad – Also for 6-8 year-olds, Seal Squad is a card game that encourages teamwork, simple strategy, and decision-making by helping kids learn to work together and overcome obstacles. According to Hoyle Games, “this fun game also helps teach that it’s best to take other players into account.”
Teaches: Teamwork, Simple Strategy, Collaborative Decision-Making
Deutschendorf says that games such as these are great for a classroom setting, but can and should also be played at home, where the SEL lessons can be reinforced.
“It’s important to have parents on board to support the learning,” he says. “Whether you’re discussing teamwork, cooperation, empathy, or impulse control. There’s no shortage of ways that social-emotional learning can enrich and impact your children’s’ lives.”