Most of us are familiar with the phrase, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” As a mostly school-based therapist, I often am called into crisis situations and social conflicts that were triggered or escalated because of “how” someone said something. “I like your shirt,” said sarcastically and followed by a snorted laugh elicits much different emotions and reactions than the same phrase with a happy voice and a genuine smile. And I have found although many times tone of voice and body language are intentional, there are still other times it is not (child doesn’t have self awareness or is too emotionally reactive to know “how” they are communicating). Even if the unhelpful tone of voice or body language is often intentional, I think offering opportunities for children to see the impact of these statements on others’ feelings can start to build empathy.
I created this game to teach tone of voice and body language as well as how it affects others’ feelings. I adapted this from an old Cat in the Hat board game.
1) The first player spins the wheel. It will land on a tone of voice and a color. The player moves to that color on the game board and then drawls a phrase card (I wrote simple phrases on these cards using the pictures already on the cards). *note* Be sure to write simple, general statements that can change meaning easily.
2) Next the first player reads the card phrase to the player next to them in that tone of voice that was spun on the wheel (I used angry, annoyed, happy, calm, whiny, and teasing).
3) The player who heard the card read to her takes the card and places in a feelings pile (how hearing the phrase in that tone of voice made her feel). If it made her happy, the first player moves ahead one more space.
4) I also included questions on some of the board game spaces such as “How did that make someone feel? Would you want someone to talk to you like that? Why or why not?” “Say it again while rolling your eyes, crossing arms, etc. Did this change how the person hearing it felt?” For answering questions, I allow the child to move ahead one more space.
Afterwards, we discuss how our voice, face, and body language matter!