Saturday, June 13, 2020

Games that Reinforce Empathy and Socialization Skills For Kids

by Hannah

We know that kids are dealing with a lot of unprecedented stress and change, so we thought it might be helpful to talk about games that help kids from younger to older to practice empathy and socializing in positive ways. I personally believe that using games as a supplement to discussing complicated feelings and social interactions can be really helpful, so long as they are in conjunction with that sort of conversation. The three games I have compiled here today range from being for much younger kids to being for kids entering preteens, so that hopefully there is a good range in here for parents. I will arrange the games in order from youngest to oldest.

Friends & Neighbors

The concept of Friends & Neighbors is pretty straightforward, as it is a matching game for kids ages 3+ ; however, the difference comes in how matches are made in the game. During the game parents and young kids are given a board, and they pull items out of the Helping Bag. They have to look at the different pictures on their board and figure out which person would be helped by the item based on the emotions and problems each person in each pictures is dealing with. Parents can then read the different descriptions of the emotions and help their kids begin recognizing how to identify expressions and how to identify what might alleviate the problems the different people experience. The game does a lot of work helping kids learn how to practice observation, care, and empathy in a productive way and how to express empathy and emotion in a positive way.

Sunny and Stormy Day!

This game approaches the topic of feelings from a slightly different angle than Friends & Neighbors. In Sunny and Stormy Day!, parents follow through Max the hedgehog's day with their kids ages 3+ in a picture book, and then use memory to find all the happy or sadder moments (i.e., sunny or stormy) throughout the story. Then kids get the chance to use these things called sharing tiles with sun, rainbow, and cloud icons to share about the different parts of their day with everyone in the family. In this way kids start to learn how to express their own feelings, as well as identify which things make them happy or not. This allows them to start seeing the complicated connections between feelings and experiences.

Dungeons & Dragons: Labyrinth's Guild of Heroes Program

For older kids there are other games that can help reinforce empathy and socialization. The Dungeons & Dragons games we run for kids within our Guild of Heroes program are a wonderful opportunity for kids to learn all about being heroic, the satisfaction that can be found in helping others, and how to act cooperatively with party members. The ages of kids who play in our games range anywhere from 7-16 years old, though, of course, we try to keep kids of the same age group together. We do our best to create separate events for kids who are significantly younger, as well as for kids who are on the significantly older end of that age range. The DMs guide the kids through various adventures and ask them to think about what their own definition of heroism is, while asking questions that require kids to consider what the most heroic act might be in any given situation. We do our best to empower the kids to think about these things on their own.

All of these games are great options for helping kids to practice socializing, empathy, and understanding, and we at Labyrinth are all about fostering those sorts of skills. They provide a great foundation for thoughtfully approaching how we engage with other people in our communities and in our lives, and, equally importantly, how we relate to and empathize with ourselves in a healthy manner. They also foster creative thinking and problem-solving, which are always great bonuses.

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