Games to Build Emotional Smarts


Building Emotional Intelligence Activities: 

Emotional intelligence is the ability to sense, understand, and react to others’ emotions while comprehending social networks. Research has shown that even more than IQ, your emotional & social intelligence is more correlated with success and overall happiness. Some of the proven benefits of increasing social and emotional intelligence are: better physical health, higher academic scores, fewer behavior problems, closer relationships, increased resiliency, and less prone substance abuse, mental health issues and violence. Daniel Goleman’s model identifies four key areas of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.  In my therapy practice I use many different interventions to help kids recognize, express and manage their emotions.  Here are some of my favorite activities:

Feelings Candyland:

The rules of the game are the same as regular Candyland except, when you choose a card to move, you have to express a time you felt the feeling that correlates with the color.  (i.e. Blue is sad.  Talk about a time or something that makes you sad).  Here is an outline of the game Feelings Candyland

Feelings Charades:

Discuss the importance of expressing feelings appropriately.  Identify 10-15 feelings and take turns acting out each feeling while the other participants guess.  You can also act out ways to deal with the feelings and identify if it is an appropriate or inappropriate way to behave.

Body Tracing:

Trace the child’s body on butcher paper.  Discuss that we feel feelings in our bodies: i.e. sick stomach, butterflies, clenched teeth, red face, etc.  Have them draw pictures of where they feel their feelings and what it feels like.  (i.e. my 6-yr-old drew a picture of a monster in his belly for anger- very accurate description!)

Feelings Box:

All feelings are okay, it’s how we deal with them that is important. Explain to the child(ren) that they are in charge of managing their emotions and identify several appropriate ways to handle emotions.  Help the child obtain a box and put items in the box that can help them when they are having “big feelings.”   I recommend having an activity in the box for each sense: something to smell, listen to, play with, eat and look at.  (i.e. legos, cars, army guys, hard candy, headphones, books, journal, coloring books, body spray, pictures of family or favorite memories, stress ball, punching balloon, etc).  If the item is too big or something they use frequently, they can put sticky note in the box reminding them of the item.  When you see your children getting upset, you can prompt them to use their feelings box.

Holly Willard