8 Childhood activities to enhance EI

Damayanti Bhattacharya
For a child’s holistic development, emotional learning is important. The National Education Policy (NEP 2020) recognizes its value in developing rational thinking, empathy, and compassion right from preschool. The article talks about how essential strategies and activities can help develop Emotional Intelligence.
In the early childhood years, emotional intelligence (EI) emerges as an important stage of development that is equally valuable as academics and Intelligence Quotient. The ability to understand, recognize, and manage one’s own emotions, and empathize with others-plays a crucial role in shaping a child’s holistic development and social being. Children act quickly and as adults, we must educate them to control their emotions which depend on their early interaction with parents and how they behave.
Understanding the Foundation
Jean Piaget and other developmental theorists, like Henri Wallon and Lev Vygotsky, emphasize stages of emotional and cognitive development that can help adults support a child’s developmental milestones. Emotional literacy enables kids to express their emotions in a healthy manner and also prevents many problems such as bullying, low self-esteem, anger difficulties, and anxiety. Including it in the educational curriculum can help them understand it. Further, teachers, guardians, and parents can make an effort to recognize and address early signs of emotional imbalance to protect children from possible behavioral issues that may occur as adults.
Here are 8 Practical Activities
Gratitude Jar
Teaching children the practice of thankfulness by using a gratitude jar can help them appreciate the good in their everyday lives. It also promotes a positive mindset. Teachers can keep a gratitude jar in the classroom, and parents can do the same at home, asking children to write a note in it at the end of class or day to make it a habit.
Breath Observation
Simple mindfulness activities, such as breath observation (asking them to close their eyes and focus on their breath), can help them focus on their present, increasing their attentiveness. This can also help kids better comprehend their feelings (such as joy, sadness, enthusiasm, and curiosity).
Sharing ‘Good Things’
This activity can be integrated into daily school routines. Teachers can start by sharing something good with the class followed by students sharing it with their classmates. It can be any good thing they’re looking forward to in the future or something they’re happy about right now. This will encourage children to share positive experiences with their classmates and promote gratitude and positivity. It can further help enhance a child’s ability to recognize and express positive emotions.
The Wonder of Words
Expanding a child’s emotional vocabulary is important for communicating their feelings. Depending on their age, teaching children emotional words (e.g., excited, cheerful, generous, amused, surprised, content, eager, etc.) might help them express themselves more correctly and nuanced.
Emotion Charades
An entertaining and educational activity, in which children guess people’s emotions based on their facial expressions. This can be played with family, classmates, or friends. Teachers can use this practice to help students make friends in new sessions. E.g., picture cards can be used to share and teach emotions, including happiness, sadness, anger, excitement, fear, and surprise. This can make learning emotions fun but also improve their ability to empathize and interpret the emotional expressions of others.
Role Play Stories
Role play can assist students learn different ways to show empathy and help them develop interpersonal skills, self-expression and self-awareness. By acting out various scenarios, children learn to understand diverse perspectives. For example- roleplaying as a doctor and letting them treat soft toys as patients, role-playing as a teacher- teaching soft toys.
Feeling With Your Feet
Ideal for outdoor play, the game involves children going around to express emotions through body language, which lies in line with the physical manifestation and awareness of feelings. Before the exercise, explain to them the body language linked with various emotions. Then, using a whistle, have them move around the playground as if they were angry. Whistle again and tell them to walk as if they were joyful.
Puppets and Feelings
Puppet play helps children to explore scenarios and express emotion in a safe, controlled environment, resulting in a better knowledge of emotional dynamics. For example- Sock puppets can be used to teach children about various feelings.
Long-term Advantages
Having strong Emotional Intelligence from a young age can not only develop an emotionally aware and intelligent younger generation but also equip them with the tools to handle the complexities of life with understanding. As per studies, children with high emotional intelligence perform better academically. They are more resilient in adversities, have strong problem-solving skills, exhibit fewer behavioral issues, and have a greater capacity for empathy. These skills are necessary for holistic development, making it a priority for a promising future.
(The author is Principal Jasudben ML Schoo, Mumbai)

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