Because it’s an assignment from school, I’ve been reading aloud Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves to my 13- year old daughter. It’s been exactly what she needs. It’s helping her label not just the emotions that are floating around her adolescent brain, but is providing strategies to improve both her emotional self-awareness and emotional self-management. In doing this, I’ve found meaningful emotional intelligence activities for kids that you can try with your own children at home.
“Emotional intelligence is your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others, and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships.” To do so successfully for adults is a significant predictor of success (being a high-performer in the workplace) and for kids is a predictor of academic success and positive social behaviors.
Not just for adolescents, being able to name emotions is a vital skill for all ages of children. Author of Brainstorm, Dr. Dan Siegel says that if kids can identify their emotions (what he coins “name it to claim it“) then kids can use to that information to manage those emotions.
The authors of Emotional Intelligence 2.0 write that only 36% of the people tested were able to accurately identified their emotions as they happened. Yikes! Which means that only 36% of people tested were able to in charge of their emotional world. Hmmm.
The impact of EQ (emotional intelligence) on a child’s life is significant. The good news? EQ can be taught, learned, and improved. Unlike the static IQ, emotional intelligence is flexible.
Because when you ask your kids (which I do a lot), “What are you feeling right now?” and they say, “I don’t know,” probably they don’t know.
As I’ve been working with my kids on mindfulness and EQ, I realized that I needed to explicitly teach my kids emotions, the names of emotions, because my kids weren’t able to identify their own feelings on their own. Somehow I thought they’d just “get” it — from modeling, reading, osmosis, or whatever. Not so much.
Time to get on it. Time to help my kids with explicit, supportive activities to teach emotions.
Emotional Intelligence Activities for Kids
I LOVE the chart in Emotional Intelligence 2.0 that identifies the five basic emotions — happy, sad, angry, afraid, and ashamed — and the words that describe the varying intensities of these emotions.
One of the most important things we can teach our kids about these emotions is THAT NONE ARE “GOOD” OR “BAD.” They don’t need to judge the emotions, just notice them and feel them.
I know, easier said than done. But trust me, this is SO important. If we label emotions as bad, we generally try to ignore or stuff these more uncomfortable feelings. Don’t. Just tell your kids to notice and feel. That’s it.
1. Write the five basic emotions down on sticky notes or note cards.
2. Write down all or some of the emotions for each category. Cut those words apart.
3. With your kids, talk about each emotion and where it might fit in one of the 5 basic emotions categories. Put those emotions under the appropriate category.
Name Your Emotions Activity
As parents, we can share with our kids our own emotions. “I’m feeling . . . ”
Dr. Siegel suggests you help kids identify their own emotions by asking them, “I wonder if you’re feeling . . . ” (Using I wonder does not put words in their mouth but gives them a start to figuring out what they might be feeling.)
Use this printable chart to help or the chart from the book.
Name Emotions & Empathize with Others Activity
1. When you’re reading a story together, try to label the emotions of the characters.
2. When watching TV or movies, pause the show and ask if your kids can tell by the body language and the words what emotions that person is feeling.
3. Use the free printable coloring page from Babbles and Dabbles to draw how a person’s face look for different emotions.
4. Ask your kids, “Have you ever felt those emotions? “Can you relate / empathize to how that individual feels?”
5. Use the free Emotion Cards from Autism Teaching Strategies to work on your kids’ relating / empathy skills.
More Emotional Intelligence Activities and Games
1. Watch the movie “Inside Out” and discuss.
2. Use family quote books to discuss and apply significant ideas.
5. Teach mindfulness to kids with the MindUp curriculum.