How can toys, games and apps help children strengthen their emotional intelligence?

Researchers are attempting to design toys to boost young children’s emotional intelligence to help them better handle their feelings and improve their interaction with others.

Emotional intelligence has gained popularity with psychologists over the last 20 years and is now considered alongside intelligence quotient (IQ) as a form of aptitude.

The four characteristics associated with emotional intelligence are: recognising emotions, using emotions efficiently, distinguishing emotional information, and managing emotions.

All four aspects start developing at around six years old.

Studies have shown that children with high emotional intelligence have better academic abilities and social skills and fewer behavioural problems.

Now, Yan Huang – a PhD student at Loughborough’s Design school – aims to create resources for parents and teachers to allow them to understand and improve young people’s emotional intelligence.

She said: “Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognise emotions, efficiently use emotions, distinguish different emotional information, and manage emotions for the purpose of psychological and emotional development.

“Children’s academic abilities and social interactions could be supercharged when they develop well-honed emotional intelligence.

“Parents can help by spending more time interacting with children in ways that address coping with emotions. For example, telling stories with different emotional scenarios.”

The project aims to design a toy that can enhance the development of emotional intelligence in children through a user-centred participatory design process.

As a first step, researchers are analysing what parents and teachers think about emotional intelligence, how it develops, and how it can be fostered during play.

The goal is to develop theories, applications, heuristics and toolkits to help children, parents, and educators and to develop better educational technology.


Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 23/61

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2023 QS World University Rankings – the seventh year running – and University of the Year for Sport by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2022.

Loughborough is ranked 7th in The UK Complete University Guide 2023, 10th in the Guardian University League Table 2023 and 11th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2023.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’, and in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 over 90% of its research was rated as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally-excellent’. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.