A critical aspect of development is the emergence of emotional intelligence. A child with a high EQ can identify and communicate his own feelings, recognise the feelings of others and adjust his behaviour to another person to ensure that they feel comfortable and understood. EQ allows your child to connect with others and collaborate – this in turn results in successful relationships. Since relationships are key to happiness at work and in all areas of life, it stands to reason that parents ought to be encouraging the development of emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence has two aspects – an inward perception of one’s own feelings and an outward connection with another person. We learn both these aspects through play:

Self-awareness is the knowledge of one’s own feelings and intents. The best way to develop self-awareness is to play WITH your child – as you play together, you can help your child to recognise his emotions – give your child words for how he is feeling and a narrative of how to respond to a situation. For example, if he is frustrated that a block won’t balance on another block, you can give him the words – “the blocks are making you feel upset because they won’t balance.” As you do this, he feels understood and this increases his capacity to gauge his own emotions in the long run.

Collaboration entails an outward connection with others. Children learn to collaborate through playful relationships in a social setting. It is a good idea to enrol your child in a small play group from 2 years old with the view to help him to learn constructive social skills. A particularly powerful strategy to learn collaboration is to play with a toy with your child. The Smart Stages Puppy from Fisher-Price provides a fabulous opportunity to play with your child – show him how to push the buttons by asking him to push certain buttons as he learns what each one does – for example – “Can you make the puppy’s heart beat?”

Through play and sensitive care from a loving parent or caregiver, the toddler learns about his own emotions and develops the skill of social collaboration.