Explanation Stars of EmpathyFor whom is the game intended and what are the rules?
Stars of Empathy is a colourful board game whereby children learn how to express themselves and how to listen to others. Being open about their world of ideas and emotions is essential in order for children to grow up into secure individuals who take care of themselves and their environment. Stars of Empathy helps them with this in a trusting, informal and enjoyable way.
There is more information below about the idea behind Stars of Empathy and how the game is played.
Stars of Empathy is based on the idea that every child has to deal with feelings of joy, sorrow, fear and anger. Many nuances can be found within these basic emotions. For example, anger can become rage but also cause irritation. Children do not express such feelings with words e.g. ‘I am irritated now’. Some children display annoying behaviour, others remain silent and withdrawn. In the most positive cases they say “I don’t like what you are doing”. This is an example of an effective way of expressing yourself, because someone is able to verbally make their feelings clear to another. If a child is capable of doing this, then there is no need to make use of any other ineffective method of making known that he or she is not feeling comfortable. This is extremely important for the well-being of a child and for their development to adulthood.
The family culture in which children grow-up is different everywhere. Some children grow-up in a loving family, others are (emotionally) neglected. Growing up in a loving family is, of course, the most desirable but does not automatically mean that children learn to deal with both their emotional life and their fantasy world. For example: because their parents do not really know how to do this or there is an unwritten rule within the family of ‘not talking about your emotions’ or because a child has, by nature, difficulty expressing him/herself.
The Outside World
A child that cannot cope with his or her emotions has not only difficulties within the family but also at school, on the football pitch and playing outside with neighbourhood chums. Quarrels, loneliness, theatrical behaviour, not being able to enjoy themselves are all examples of manifestations that are partly due to a lack of ability to cope with their own emotions. Besides this, it does not get any easier when, in the society in which the child grows up, a taboo prevails about expressing and naming emotions. Luckily this is changing and schools are realising that children can only perform well in, let’s say, arithmetic if they are at ease with their innerselves. In fact, social skills form the basics for all other issues.
What Does Stars of Empathy offer?
By playing Stars of Empathy children get the chance to practise making contact with themselves and others in a fun way. They learn to express themselves and to develop a connection with other children by means of conversation in a small group. They learn to engage with other children and give compliments, also invite each other to play together and help one another in the game. Stars of Empathy aims to aquaint the children with sharing their emotional life and fantasy world in a playful way.
Features of Stars of Empathy
- The game is suitable for every child:
it is designed for all children (age indication 8-12) and not only for children with social-emotional problems. Stars of Empathy is all about a direct manner of communication. Role play is not used. Stars of Empathy is based upon the capacity of the children and teaches them how to truly express themselves, not via a role they are playing.
- Stars of Empathy and everyday life join together seamlessly:
Stars of Empathy stands apart because all conceivable emotions are addressed. This means that a subject such as bullying can be discussed just as easily as happiness. Stars of Empathy is a reflection of the daily life of the children, in which fun, sadness and happiness may alternate. By letting the children get acquainted with this variety of topics, they learn that it is human and perfectly normal to have certain thoughts and feelings. This does not mean that there is something serious taking place, so there is no need to be ashamed. The sharing of thoughts and feelings often produces considerable luminosity and gives a pleasant sense of connectedness with others.
- Playing in a Small Group:
Stars of Empathy is purposely played in a small group of four children. A small group helps to ensure that the children feel safe enough to tell something about themselves. It is much more difficult to do this in a classroom or large group but of course it is always good to talk to their peers: they can recognize themselves in each other and help one another too.
Collaboration with Teachers, Parents, and Carers
The better the children are able to cope with their thoughts and feelings, the lesser the possibility that now or in later life they will be confronted with social-emotional problems. Stars of Empathy strives to help the children with this. Of course it is essential that a child receives support from his or her enviroment so they can develop in a healthy social-emotional manner. Stars of Empathy does not pretend that it can solve all problems. The game is a tool and it is of great importance that teachers, parents and any other important persons in the lives of the children give their support.
How does Stars of Empathy work?
Stars of Empathy is a board game which comprises of 21 spaces. The game is played by four players with one supervisor. The players each take it in turn to throw a dice. The number on the dice determines the number of spaces a player can move along the board.
The illustration in each space determines whether the player has a question or a task.
- The questions relate to the social environment of the children. They are based on the subjects of child and emotion, child and environment and child and the future. An example of a question: Who is your best friend? What makes him or her special?
- The tasks concern the interaction between the players. An example: Give the player on your left a compliment.
- As well as the questions and tasks there are spaces which make the game even more fun and varied, such as music and guessing games. There are also “resting points”: when a player is on one these spaces he or she doesn’t have to do anything.
- The player who is first to reach the Finish can, together with the rest of the players, make up a new question for Stars of Empathy, and write it on a blank card. Winning is not important with Stars of Empathy. It is about playing together.
Stars of Empathy includes the following contents: game board, cards, playing pieces and a dice.
“The nice thing about the game is that you are not stuck here on a particular method, and especially that you get in a very natural way conversations between children and how things are going. […] Because of the type of game you’re doing a play, and yet also working on issues that concern you. “
Carlo Janssen, remedial teacher
Primary school de Teugelaar-Oss, the Netherlands