Exploring emotional expression through colourful flash cards
The Game of Mixed Emotions is a fun, simple card game designed to teach kids how to talk about their feelings. Research shows that this type of early emotional education makes children happier, healthier and more successful, now and for the rest of their lives.Research shows that this type of early emotional education makes children happier, healthier and more successful, now and for the rest of their lives.
The game of Mixed Emotions is a fun, simple card game designed to teach kids how to talk about their feelings. We talk with game creator Theresa Claire on how a game like hers can be used to navigate social-emotional conversations with children under five years old.
Find out more about the game here.
HiMama Preschool Podcast, Episode #82 – Theresa Claire
Proofread and revised by Andrew Hall – Feb. 02, 2018
We can have a greater impact across society, that if we all become better communicators and are able to better express our emotions in a healthy and positive way.
Hi, I’m Ron Spreeuwenberg, co-founder and CEO of HiMama. Welcome to our podcast about all things “early-childhood education”.
Theresa, welcome to the Preschool Podcast.
Thanks for having me, Ron.
So you are the founder of a company that has created a game called Mixed Emotions. Can you tell us what that game is all about?
Absolutely. The game of Mixed Emotions is really a fast, easy and fun card game to teach emotional vocabulary. Each deck has 48 unique cards, and each card has an emotion word, and then two reasons why I might feel that emotion. And then each card has a cute character that is expressing that word, and then a symbol on the card. There’s four different symbols, so there’s four different categories of card. There’s red fire cards for high energy, uncomfortable emotions like mad, frustrated and worried. And then our high-energy comfortable hearts are happy, excited and proud, and they all have a yellow sun symbol on them. And then the low-energy symbol is for blue clouds and green clovers. The blue cloud words are sad, shy, tired, distracted. So those are all low-energy, uncomfortable feelings. And then the green clovers are for calm, peaceful, patient, comfortable, just kind of neutral. You might grass when you’re just chilling out there. And that’s what you’d think of for our green clover cards.
And so we include the instructions in the game for to play one type of game, which is similar to Uno-types where you’re trying to match either the colour and symbol of the card, or you’re trying to match the characters. So there’s 12 unique characters in the game. And you’re trying to get rid of your cards, so it’s similar to an Uno-type game. But there’s at least half-a-dozen other ways to use the cards that we know of, and our customers are telling us different ways that they’re using the cards in different ways. So they’re using them as conversation-starters, or we have a bingo game coming out along with that cards as well. So there is a lot of different ways we can use the same deck of cards.
So what’s the primary purpose behind the Mixed Emotions game?
The primary purpose is to teach emotional vocabulary. So these kids are going to preschool or elementary school. They might experience frustration from the first time when another child is taking a toy from them. So we’re teaching now this primary vocabulary, which is “mad”. But there’s so many different variations of what “mad” is, and there are a lot of different… I’m building the emotional vocabulary when I have a lot of other words that I can use, because “mad” is slightly different from “frustrated”. Or I’m not able to write the words that I want to write, and so I’m feeling frustrated because I’m not getting it, or everybody seems to be learning something more quickly than I am, so I might be feeling frustrated.
These are all reasons why I feel frustrated, or Mom’s telling me that I have to go and I’m feeling frustrated. But she might just see that as I’m being stubborn, right? So it’s mixed interpretation of what Mom is understanding and what a child is experiencing. So if we can have a common vocabulary then we can have a better conversation. So it’s really conversation-starters.
I see. Okay, so the primary purpose is to teach emotional vocabulary, and then the benefit of that is that you can have better conversations about the way you’re feeling and express yourself in words versus other ways that you might present yourself otherwise, if you weren’t using words. Is that accurate?
Right, absolutely. And another secondary benefit is that, what we’ve discovered is when we can use our emotions to identify problems. So, “Why I’m feeling this way? Okay, now I’m feeling worried. So I’m feeling worried because, is Mom going to pick me up?” So we have a child with separation anxiety that [is] crying. They’re feeling worried because Mom might not be coming back to get them. So that’s identifying, helping to have a communication between the child and the caregiver to say, “Okay, you’re feeling worried right now.”
Then we can have a dialogue with Mom and say, “How can we help this child not feel worried, that Mom is going to come back? What are strategies that we could use to help resolve that problem so you’re not feeling worried anymore?” And Mom can have that conversation when she’s dropping the child off at school and the child’s having that separation [anxiety], not necessarily able to express why they’re feeling upset. But if it’s worry that’s causing that reaction, an emotional reaction, then we want to give that word to that child so that they’re able to have a better dialogue and communication with the caregiver and with parents so that we can tackle, “What is the problem?”, and we can help them to become problem solvers and to really address the underlying problems.
Got it. So what age groups do you think would benefit most from learning more about emotional vocabulary?
Well, I think earlier the better. The research shows that the earlier we can teach children social skills and emotional intelligence-building skills, that the long-term implications are great. I mean, depending on who you ask it’s either the first or second greatest predictor of future success. It is emotional intelligence and social skills. And kindergarten is one study that I read. So it’s really got a great impact on their future successes if you have as the ability to have the social skills and being able to handle your emotions and talk about them and express them healthy and positive way.
And what about on the other end of the spectrum? Is there sort of a maximum age where you would benefit from this?
I don’t think so. I mean, I’ve shown this to adults, and there are a lot of adults that didn’t grow up it. “I don’t know how to. It was just not something we talked about.” And so I don’t think that there is a maximum. I think that when we have kids that are learning something in school that’s new and are able to bring it home to Mom and Dad that don’t expect them to grow up knowing how to positively express their emotions then it definitely has that implication of we can have a greater impact across society, that if we all become better communicators and are able to better express our emotions in a healthy and positive way then there is no maximum, I don’t think.
Okay. I think I could probably benefit from expressing my emotions and words better, too. So maybe… I think we all could. Why did you create this game?
All right, so, I have three boys. And I actually homeschooled my boys until they started elementary school. And my oldest one is in fifth grade, and my middle son started third grade. And when we were homeschooling I knew what was going on with them. But when they went to school and they came home from school and I said, “How was your day?” And they said, “Fine,” and I wanted more. It wasn’t enough for me for them to just say “Fine,” and if I would pry, it would be, like, “Ugh, eye-roll.”
And so I was trying to find a way to have a feelings communication with, and in a way that didn’t feel forced and was just a national conversation. And so it was kind of an evolutionary process. We started out with a lunchbox note, which is currently a secondary product that we have now. So I’d leave them the lunchbox notes. And it was usually the same characters on the cards on the front side, but on the back side it would ask the child every day, “How do you feel today?” And it would have an inspirational quote on it. It gave them an opportunity to respond back.
So from there I took lunchbox notes, and I wanted to create a game. It seemed like it would be a faster way to gain an emotional vocabulary through a fun card game. So I put stickers on the back and just took about… I would say six months of testing, and I played with hundreds of kids. I went to different festivals where kids would come to the table and I would play the game and just to get a response and reiterations. And so it took some time to get to the point where we felt really comfortable that this was a product that could really help. And that was an effective way to reach the goal of teaching the emotional vocabulary and sparking conversation.
Interesting, cool. And what about in the context of early-childhood education? If I’m a preschool teacher, how can a game like this help me in my classroom with the kids that I’m working with?
Sure. So in a preschool classroom the game is actually labeled for [ages] five and up. I’ve actually played with kids as young as two to use the cards in a matching game. There are 48 cards in the game, and there are 24 pairs of cards, and each card is unique. So it’s a brother-sister pair for each word. So if I want to introduce this to preschool children I would start with having the kids make matches. So I have two kids just spread the cards out on the table. And I say, “Can you find the two kids that are playing with the fidget spinner?” All the kids know what a fidget spinner is at this point in my circle. I’m not sure if that’s a popular toy around the world, but the kids that I’ve seen know fidget spinners. So I have on the cards two kids that are playing with it. And then I’m able when the kids find those cards in that pair, I say, “Those kids are feeling distracted,” and then I’m able to talk about that.
And I have two kids that are carrying groceries. And I say to the child, “Can you find the two kids that are carrying groceries?” So they make a match and I say, “Oh, those children are feeling helpful.” And I say, “Can you find the two kids that are with a puppy?” And they find the kids, and I say, “Oh, those kids are feeling kind.” And I define the word, and I say, “Those kids are feeling kind because they’re taking care of their pet.” So it’s expanding now. I’ve got those instructions on the card.
And then the next the next game is, we can play memory. We lay the cards out on the rug. And if the kids are young, if they’re [age] three or four, you just take just six cards or twelve cards, depending on their knowledge level and skill level. So we’re wanting to find just a couple of matches. And so it’s an introduction of the vocabulary. So if we’re just putting out eight cards, we’re looking for four matches by turning the cards over. And they’re learning to identify the word.
I’ve played the game successfully with… if it’s a parent and child playing, we can play with a three-year-old, depending on their independence level. I’ve played successfully with four-year-olds playing independently for the game, the game that’s similar type as Uno where we’re matching the colour and symbol for that character. So they don’t have to be reading. So we’re looking for… we have one character that has red hair and pigtails. So she appears on four different emotion words, so we’re making a match for that character and she’s feeling tired on one card and she’s feeling kind on another, or she’s feeling scared on another card. That’s another way we’re making the associations.
And then the kids are learning… I can’t say that they’re learning to read using the cards, but they are learning the vocabulary, that feeling of an expanded vocabulary, learning to identify the words.
Right, because it’s not necessarily about learning how to read. It’s about the emotions. And whether that’s through reading and what the emotion is, versus visualizing it with some graphic or a character that’s it. Okay, got it. Cool. Awesome. Where can people go to find out more about the game of Mixed Emotions?
Well you can find us www.MixedEmotions.co, or MixedEmotionsGame.com. And you can follow us at Mixed Emotions Game on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Very cool. Theresa, thank you so much for coming on the Preschool Podcast. It’s been really interesting learning more about your game. Social-emotional learning is certainly something that is really front-and-center with us getting a better understanding, like you said, just how fundamental and how important it is for children to understand at an early age. Thanks for coming on the show, and thanks for telling us more about what you’re passionate about. And thanks for your contributions. It’s been lovely having you.
Thanks a lot, Ron, I appreciate it.