There are two things I know about Sam: 1.) He LOVES games, and 2.) Like his Dad, he’s not particularly “emotional” or good at talking about/recognizing feelings. With that knowledge, I was obviously excited to learn about a cute new card game that helps parents (or teachers, counselors, etc.) talk to their kids about their emotions and develop some skills for managing them.
A Penny For Your Thoughts is called “a survival kit for kids and adults,” and Sam and I are both big fans. Each game comes with 80 beautiful, hand-illustrated cards depicting different people, places, emotions, and skills so that kids can begin to identify what they are feeling, who makes them feel that way, where they feel a certain way, and how they can handle those feelings and situations. It comes neatly packaged in a box with a dice and can be played a variety of ways depending on your goals and/or the age of the child; but, in general, they are awesome conversation starters and make talking about important things easy and fun instead of intimidating.
So far, Sam and I have not really played with the “Skills” cards, since I think that will come a little later once he’s more comfortable with naming and talking about the emotions; but, he’s loved looking at all the pictures and matching up how he feels with places and people. I’ve been amazed at how much he has to say about these things when I actually open the door to talking about them! The game has also given me a great opportunity to tell him about times when I’ve been scared/frustrated/lonely/etc. and normalize those experiences in a light, story-driven way.
In addition to how just plain pretty the cards are, I also love that they really have thought of everything. It’s so easy to just talk about being “mad,” “sad,” and “happy” with kids, but these cards include words like “nervous”, “jealous”, and “annoyed” that, honestly, just weren’t on my register to introduce and explain to Sam before now. Likewise, though they don’t apply to our life specifically, I really appreciate that there are also cards featuring people like “foster parents” and “step-mom” which could easily be set-aside when we played OR used to talk about other peoples’ families and home life.
Overall, I can see this game being a huge part of our lives for years to come. It is very well made and intentional in its design and purpose. Not only is it easy and enjoyable to play with Sam, but I feel like I’m “killing two birds with one stone” because we’re also getting to have quality discussions as we play.
While A Penny For Your Thoughts is a great game to have in your family collection, the first time Sam and I played, I immediately thought of my sister in her job as a children’s counselor… She has borrowed our game a few times and wrote up the following little “review” herself:
I played this game with my five year-old client as his behavioral counselor. At first, honestly, he had a hard time understanding – so it took a few minutes to him engaged and invested, but once he got it, he really enjoyed the game. His grandparents have custody of him, so it was nice to have unconventional cards about family members that actually applied to his life. He really seemed to understand and was able to connect his feelings to situations and people he could relate to.
We also played by giving each other three cards of people and three cards of emotions and pairing them up to talk about how a specific person makes him feel most often and why: this way worked really well for him, and he opened up to discuss some of the way he feels about certain people more in-depth than he usually goes.
We also used the “skills” cards – the ones that the were were able to actually practice – and he loved using role play to better understand how the coping skills could help him deal with his feelings. I thought it was particularly beneficial for him to be able to have multiple coping skills to use in different settings, because while one may work at home, it might not work at school and vice versa – so it was good to practice matching them that way too.
Overall, it was great to see so many emotions and feelings included that don’t often come up in conversation – as adults, we just “know” them, but for kids, its so imperative to introduce them to the many different feelings that are underlying their anger, sadness, etc.
You can learn more about A Penny For Your Thoughts and buy your own game (or one of their beautiful posters) on their website www.apennyforyourthoughtscards.com and follow them on Instagram at @apennyforyour_thoughts for more great pictures and ideas!