Austinite Sofia Dickens says she didn’t want her kids “leaving the house at 18 just memorizing a bunch of facts.” Instead, she wanted to teach her children ages 7, 5, and 2, the kind of skills that would build their emotional intelligence.
She cites research that emotional intelligence can be a greater indicator of success in life than intellectual intelligence.
Dickens, who you might know from video clues on “Jeopardy!” or her time anchoring “Channel One News” in schools, created a game she could play with her children that would build emotional intelligence skills — manners, social skills, self-control, etc.
“I knew how important it was to teach these kids these skills, but there was absolutely nothing out there,” she says. Some moms know intuitively how important this is, but they don’t know where to begin, she says.
In August, she pitched “Q’s Race to the Top” to Target, who wanted not just the game, but also additional products: on-the-go cards for playing in the car, a stuffed Q monkey that is weighted to rest on a kid’s belly and look into their eyes, a coloring book, and story books and audio CDs of the books that would teach important life lessons about good behavior and social skills. The Q stuffed monkey also comes with breathing exercises to help with self-control and attention that can be so difficult.
Last week, the line from EQtainment hit the shelves of Target. The board game sells for $29.99 and includes the storybook “Q’s Wild Ride.”
The game is designed for ages 4-6, but can be played with older elementary school-age kids as well, and of course, parents should play, too. It’s centered around Q, a dusky leaf monkey, who “is one of the smartest monkeys in the world, but he has a LOT to learn about life.” The game is a little bit like “Chutes and Ladders” or “Candyland,” but on each colored square, there’s a card the corresponds. The cards are either You, Do or Q.
The You questions are thoughtful and create discussion opportunities: “What does it mean to be brave? Are you brave? Give an example.” “Is it polite to whisper? When is it okay to whisper?” “What does it mean to be a good sport?”
The Do questions are active and fun: “Stand in a funny pose while making a funny face. Now hold the funny pose and the funny face while the other players count to 20.” “Do 10 bunny hops, jumping up and down on both feet. Now do 20 bunny hops while pretending to swim with your arms.” “Can you throw the dice a few inches in to the air and catch it?”
The Q questions are hypothetical dilemmas for you to help Q figure out: “Q started snatching banana pieces off his baby sister Nugget’s plate. After all, she wouldn’t notice they were gone. What did he do wrong?” “Q doesn’t like cleaning up his toys. Can you think of some ways to make cleaning up more fun?” “Q threw a fit, stomping his feet, shouting and pouting when he didn’t get his way. His brother Redmond said throwing a fit is not okay. What’s a better way to act when we don’t get our way?”
Dickens used a lot of focus groups to come up with good questions and activities. Part of the fun is to see parents jumping on one leg, she says. It also gets kids thinking about their actions in a way that is not Mom and Dad yelling at them or correcting them, because after all, they are probably a lot like Q: well-intentioned but not always doing the right thing or knowing what that right thing is.
One of her favorite questions is the You question of “What does it mean to be brave?” She had a mom write her that she got this response from her child: “Walking into kindergarten every morning because I’m scared to go in.” “She was in tears because she had been dropping him in the carpool lane for months and had no idea,” Dickens says. The game was a way for her child to tell her what he was feeling.
For Dickens own kids, who have been integral in creating the game and the rest of the products, they love the challenges of the Do cards but they also love the questions, even if they’ve already gotten them before. “It’s always a new conversation to be had,” Dickens says. “It’s just a joy to hear their answers.”
Dickens is in the process of developing more Q-related products, including a 22-episode animated TV show.