As a family therapist who specializes in parenting, I know how important it is for children to feel a sense of belonging in whatever group they’re part of; whether it’s their family, school or friends. When a child feels accepted and understood they will be happier and more self-confident. Nice to Meet is a great way to help this process along. It’s a great conversation starter that can strengthen communication skills (talking and listening) and help deepen understanding of themselves and others.
This delightfully illustrated question card game for kids invites them to “open up” and share interesting things about themselves. The set includes 49 cards ranging from simple to complex topics, making it appropriate for children aged four and up. Each card depicts two contrasting pictures and the child is invited to speak about which picture they identify with more. For the younger child, the cards depict simple contrasts like sail or fly, beach or pool, cabin or palace? Cards for older children depict, give up or fight, here or elsewhere, read minds or invisible? It’s easy to play because there are no hard and fast rules; players simply pick cards and decide which ones they’d like to talk about. They can keep or pass their cards. They can even decide to turn it around and try and guess which pictures the other players will choose. From there, the conversation can go wherever the child wants to take it—even if it’s not about the pictures— giving them the opportunity to express who they are, what they like, and how they think.
Nice to Meet is a fun family game that can strengthen bonds. Because the choices are intriguing, family members learn interesting facts about each other. It can be used as a dinner table game when you want to create a pleasant atmosphere. It would also make a great road trip game. Portable and easy to throw in your bag, it’s a great alternative to turning on a screen when your kids need something interesting to focus on. I find that today’s parents are always on the lookout for non-competitive activities and this fits the bill; there are no right or wrong answers, no winners and losers. I believe that when children are asked to talk about “who I am” they revel in the self-affirming experience of being heard. It encourages them to listen too; to be curious and respectful of how others feel. This game will help them meet several important social and emotional needs.
This conversation starter for kids would also be a worthwhile addition to any kindergarten or elementary classroom. Educators recognize that establishing positive social relationships is essential for academic and social success. Nice to Meet can facilitate the getting to know process at the beginning of the school year. Use it as an ice-breaker in the first weeks of school, and continue playing it throughout the year to strengthen relationships. Students will find it fascinating to learn what they have in common with each other, and how each person in their classroom is unique. For younger students, it’s a great circle time activity, particularly if the teacher uses open-ended questions to get children to expand on their comments. It would be especially helpful for kids who have a hard time opening up or have challenges making friends.
As well, Nice to Meet can be a valuable tool for child therapists. It would provide a relaxed, non-threatening way to get conversation rolling at the beginning of the therapeutic relationship. As with any open-ended exercise, the child’s answers reveal significant aspects of their personalities which are helpful in gaining an understanding of a child. If I was using it with a young client I’d follow up simple answers with exploratory questions that encourage the child to go a little deeper. For example, if a child says that they like cats more than dogs, it could be followed up with, “What is it about cats that you particularly like?” Whether they admire how a cat moves gracefully, its independent nature, or how soft their fur feels tells us something about them. Answers may point to things such as a child’s love of freedom, knowledge, predictability, fun, closeness or excitement. It’s important of course, to allow the child to explain their thoughts and feelings in their own words without any signs of judgment. When the therapist takes a turn the child gets to know them better too, creating a sense of equality in the relationship.
About the author:
Karen Skinulis is a Registered Psychotherapist in Richmond Hill, Ontario who specializes in parenting and family issues. Her latest book, The Parenting Toolkit: Ten Extraordinary Inventions Guaranteed to Solve Real, Everyday Problems will be available in print in Spring 2019. It is presently available as an e-book on Kobo or her website: www.practicalparenting.ca