Having a high IQ may give people an intellectual advantage in life but having a high level of emotional intelligence (EQ) is arguably even more important. Research from Carnegie Institute shows that “human engineering,” a fancy way of saying how well you get along with people, determines your level of success in life. Being able to communicate effectively, regulate emotions, exhibit empathy, tolerate discomfort and collaborate with others are critical skills most adults use every day.
Developing EQ skills in children can sometimes be a challenge. Here are a few enrichment activities that allow kids to have fun while developing their emotional intelligence:
Creating any type of art, including painting, writing, performing or other forms of artistic expression, encourages children to share a piece of their internal selves with the outside world. Art also encourages kids to become more aware of their own perceptions about life and their place in the world. When children view works of art created by others, they develop empathy as they observe the expressions of others.
RECOMMENDED: Loudoun Arts Council loudounarts.org
Identifying emotions in people relies on the same brain mechanisms as sensing emotion in music. Children with exposure to music demonstrate markedly greater perception skills in reading emotion. Ideally, children should be exposed to a variety of forms of music from a young age. To build EQ, parents can talk to their children about how the music makes the child feel. This exercise helps kids develop an expressive vocabulary so they can communicate their feelings to others. Later, learning an instrument further develops the child’s EQ skills as they begin to collaborate, play in groups and compose original music.
RECOMMENDED: Catoctin School of Music catoctinschoolofmusic.com
Practicing yoga calms the mind and opens the nervous system allowing children to relax their bodies and get in touch with their true feelings. Yoga also helps children regulate their emotions by providing a constant flow of oxygen to the brain. Children report significant improvements in mood, focus and the ability to manage their emotions after completing simple breathing and yoga techniques.
RECOMMENDED: Yes! For Schools youthempowermentseminar.org
Learning a second language encourages children to develop a greater understanding and sensitivity to other cultures. Listening to others speak in a foreign tongue encourages children to glean information by observing gestures and reading social cues which are critical components of having a high EQ. Learning a second language also helps kids develop a higher tolerance for ambiguity which can help make them feel less anxious in social situations.
RECOMMENDED: Wyzant Database of Language Instructors, wyzant.com
Chess has been shown to encourage the growth of dendrites, which are the tree-like branches that aid in communication. The game of chess can also bring together children of different ages, races, gender and socioeconomic levels who may not otherwise have an opportunity to interact. Playing chess encourages children to imagine all possible options which is the cornerstone of creative thinking.
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To help your child build EQ skills, consider having them participate in enriching, extracurricular activities like music, foreign language, yoga, art and chess. These activities are not only fun for kids but they help give children skills they need later in life to be successful adults.
CHRIS CROLL is a parenting consultant specializing in the development and education of gifted children. She lives in Leesburg and works with families across the United States. To learn more visit nationalcenterforgiftedservices.com. Chris also runs the nonprofit Loudoun County Parents of Gifted Students (LoCoPOGS.org.)