Alum Develops Game to Help Kids Define their Feelings
Educational games, especially those developed for children, offer young players knowledge and new life skills. In some cases, they even serve a dual purpose. They give families and teachers insights into children through their gameplay conversations and interactions.
That was what happened with Theresa Claire ’14 (CLAS), of Stamford, Conn. Theresa, a freelancer and substitute teacher, realized her young sons lacked the emotional vocabulary to define their feelings.
“When I asked them how they were doing, ‘fine’ was the usual, umbrella term they always used,” Theresa said.
So she decided to develop a new card game to address it. With the help of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, local psychologists and her own entrepreneurial spirit, she invented The Game of Mixed Emotions. It’s a card game that helps children develop an emotionally meaningful vocabulary while playing games similar to Go Fish and Crazy Eights. Parents can use the cards, which depict various emotions such as anger or happiness, as conversation starters to develop their child’s emotional intelligence.
In The Game of Mixed Emotions, each card has an emotional vocabulary word, such as “mad.” Each card features an illustration and two written scenarios to describe the word. A child reads the card and examines the visuals to understand when they might feel certain emotions. Parents then integrate questions such as “When have you felt this emotion?” and answer questions that may arise during play.
Developing emotional intelligence has many benefits for children academically and emotionally.
“As part of the research I was doing,” Theresa said, “I found that when you teach a child how to communicate about their emotions, it leads to lower instances of anxiety and depression and higher test scores.”
Emotional intelligence can also help children with their future professional careers. Theresa’s research shows, for example, that children with higher levels of emotional intelligence in kindergarten are more likely to graduate from college and have full-time jobs. Emotional intelligence is an important communication tool. The more a child knows about what they’re feeling, the more they can identify those same emotional cues in the world around them and make the right decisions.
Of course, The Game of Mixed Emotions itself is not a cure-all for helping a child develop emotional intelligence.
“It is a way for kids to talk about their emotions when they’re not feeling the emotion,” Theresa said. “There are further conversations that have to happen. You don’t learn the word ‘mad’ overnight and automatically have control over the emotion.” The game only works when there is interpersonal communication at play and when the child is in a calm state of mind.
When used correctly, The Game of Mixed Emotions helps children become aware of what they’re feeling and helps them learn how to articulate their emotions while adopting coping strategies. Jane, a five-year-old customer from Greenwich, Conn., has already experienced the benefits.
“If you’re feeling sad, and you’re playing the game, you will feel calm,” she said.