Sure, you want your kids to learn their numbers, letters, and shapes, but what about the things they can’t learn from a workbook—what about things like patience? Self-control? Kindness? Those intangibles can be hard to teach. Sofia Dickens, an LA mama determined to help kids up their emotional intelligence (EQ), founded the new company, EQtainment, which is a games-based way to learn empathy and kindness through fun.
Book Smart and Heart Smart
This local mother-of-three is on a mission to make emotional intelligence take a front seat, and after a politically fraught and emotionally charged 2016, her timing couldn’t be better. “What we have to work with is everything outside of traditional academics,” said Dickens, who first became interested in emotional intelligence as a student at Harvard (yeah, she’s that smart). “When I became a mom, I realized, I don’t want my kids leaving the house at 18 having just memorized a bunch of stuff.”
What she wanted was something that would teach little kids about big feelings. She started with a board game and coloring book. Then this fall, EQtainment released the Q Wunder app, a subscription-based program which features a variety of EQ-boosting games, videos and songs, plus a parent portal that includes an original podcast and a host of parenting tips. So much better than Pokemon Go, when you’re on the go.
What Is EQ, Anyway?
Where a person’s IQ points to their overall intelligence; EQ points to how they handle their feelings and impulses. For example, there’s this famous experiment: If your child was handed a marshmallow and was told she could have another marshmallow if she would just leave the first untouched for a few minutes, could she do it? That’s a test of her EQ. If you’re on the phone and your kids want to get your attention, do they whine or scream—or do they wait patiently until you’re done? That’s a test, too. (One our kids fail!)
It’s important stuff, especially since research suggests emotional intelligence is linked to greater school readiness and overall life success.
“Everything you want for your kids — healthy relationships, character, and a fulfilling career—comes from how well you can develop abilities like impulse control, social awareness, empathy, grit, and problem solving,” said Dickens. “Now is our chance to make small adjustments in their behavior that will have a huge impact in school and later in life.”
All About the App
The star of the new Q Wunder app is a smiling monkey named Q. Q’s still got a lot to learn about his own feelings, and it’s your kiddo’s job to help him learn. If you want your kids to learn a little about patience and impulse control, watch Q’s cute little video short in which New York Giant alum Michael Strahan challenges a preschooler to a “Don’t eat the marshmallow” duel. If you’d like your kids to understand the importance of eye contact, hand them Q’s quick on-screen staring game that teaches just that.
The app features 24 episodes of the interactive Q Wunder kids show, featuring guest celebrities and appearances by Dickens herself (she’s a former Jeopardy! video correspondent and former host of the kid news show, Channel 1 News). There’s also a slew of original pop songs, music videos, and games, all of which promise to help little ones navigate the rocky road of their own emotions.
Want to hear a song? Listen to a sample here.
You can play along. Parents can access the grown-up section of the app to hear podcasts and browse through a variety of resources relating to child development and emotional intelligence. You can also choose to receive regular report cards to track your kids’ progress.
If you don’t like the idea of handing over a smartphone to your kids, EQtainment also has a line of old-fashioned EQ-boosting products, the most fun of which is the “Q’s Race to the Top” board game. The game, designed for kids age 3-7, gives kids an easy way to express their feelings, and gives parents an eye-opening look into what’s going on in their kids’ little heads.
Players pick YOU cards to answer simple questions about themselves; DO cards to perform small physical challenges like jumping Jacks or air-punches (the theory is that kids can’t properly control their emotions until they can properly control their bodies); or Q cards, which give kids sample scenarios and ask them how Q should handle himself. The goal in a nutshell: The more kids understand their emotions, the better they’ll be able to control and express them.
“Our vision is really to make learning social and emotional skills fun and accessible for every kid,” Dickens said. “The more entertaining we make it, the more kids will take in.”
So maybe this will help get your little one to be more patient when you’re on the phone and she wants your attention. Or to get bickering siblings to stop fighting and share a toy every once in a while. In any case, your kids (and, hopefully, you, too) will have fun learning, together.
What’s your favorite way (app, book or just talking) to tech your kids about EQ?