The Color Monster… And Emotional Intelligence
This post was written by guest contributor Chrissy Wissler.
When I first saw the picture book, “The Color Monster,” at our local library I immediately checked it out. The art, this cut-out paper style that looked like a child drew it—everything about it just called to me. And then I read it to Kate and well… let’s just say she immediately asked to buy it.
(We did, by the way.)
Yep. A board game about feelings.
How to Play
In both the book and the board game, the Color Monster is all mixed up; he can’t tell what he’s feeling and his friend, the little girl, offers to help sort it all out. Work together to sort all the Color Monster’s emotions in the correct jar before three ‘Mixed Up’ bottles appear, you win the game!
There are tokens on the board which represent the different emotions: sad, calm, happy, angry, and fear. Love is there, too.
As the Color Monster, you take turns rolling the dice and going to the different locations on the board. When the Color Monster lands on a space you must share something that makes you feel the same way as the emotion where you landed.
What makes you angry? What makes you scared?
Once you do this, then you pick one of the bottles (these are on cardboard stands and turned inward so you can’t see which is which). If you guess correctly, such as you have the happiness token and you pick the happiness bottle, then you get to put the token inside the bottle.
Guess incorrectly, and you’ll have to put the bottle back without putting in a token. You’ll need to remember what emotion it was for later.
If you happen to flip over a ‘Mixed Up’ bottle instead, that will stay facing out. If you flip over all three of these bottles the game ends and the Color Monster must go back to bed to rest. He can try sorting his emotions again later.
Players take turns moving around the board, sharing how they feel, using the little girl to help turn those Mixed Up bottles back around.
This is a quick game, about ten minutes and has a fairly easy setup, which I very much appreciate in kids games (and so did my kids; who has patience for those loooong set up times??).
The components are fine and just missing on being amazing. The wooden characters are lovely: big and chunky and the art is the same used in the picture book, so it’s just perfect for kids. In fact, after we play this at my Board Game Club, I usually see kids taking the characters and playing with the pieces, using pretend play to act out whatever game or story they have in mind.
(And the power of pretend play is absolutely essential for kids and learning and processing our world. How lovely that the game pieces themselves promote this kind of play.)
The bottles are really nice. Thick cardboard and a little slot at the top to slide in the emotion tokens. This even withstood Eric’s curiosity (meaning: it’s still in one piece and functional!).
The only disappointment are the cardboard stands. Even with the fitted slots these are constantly falling down or sliding off. I wish they’d made these sturdier, maybe allowing more space in the box so the stands could be put away as a finished piece. It’s a minor disappointment to be sure, but definitely drops the component quality for me.
But the game itself just shines… at least in what’s it’s trying to do.
Who is The Color Monster for?
If you’re looking for a real focused board game, like critical thinking and math and strategy, this is not that game. Instead, The Color Monster is about a shared experience. A possible way into your child’s emotional well-being (if they’ve been closed off to you before) or simply a way of staying in that connection.
It’s also an opportunity for you to share your feelings with your children. Who knows the kinds of conversations and deepening relationships that can come from this?
The Color Monster truly is a game about emotions and emotional intelligence, and I don’t think I’ve heard of a game quite like this. (Editor’s note: Guess It, Get It, Gumballs is another game that talks about emotions, but not nearly as well.)
When I played with Kate, she revealed things that actually bothered her, that made her upset or frustrated or happy, things she hadn’t yet told me directly. The rules of the game itself, gave her power to share something she might not have felt comfortable sharing before.
But this game also gave me the chance to share how I felt with her—like why I had a hard time controlling my anger at a certain moment, why I was triggered, and maybe apologize or talk about what I could have done differently.
Not only does this game offer me the chance to reconnect and repair a rupture I didn’t know was there, but then I get to model the behaviors I want her to learn (and frankly, get better at practicing myself).
This is teaching emotional intelligence right there – for both of us. For that alone, I’d highly recommend this game.
For children who have a hard time understanding emotions, I’d recommend this game as well.
Who isn’t it for?
Some kids won’t be ready for this game, who aren’t ready to understand the nuances of feelings and emotions. Perhaps even the abstract nature of language about emotions is still beyond them. My youngest, Eric, definitely doesn’t understand this game—yet. For him, it’s all about helping him to roll the dice and move the characters around the board. He doesn’t have the words yet to talk about emotions, but the bright pictures and characters draw him in, and to me that’s success.
And if you have older kids (maybe eight or nine), and you’re feeling disconnected, you could still give this game a try. It probably won’t be the magic bullet that fixes everything, but maybe it’ll be a bridge… one where both of you can share how you feel and who knows where that will lead you?
Don’t expect an explosive, emotional-sharing experience that’s gonna fix all your problems in one go. It takes time to disconnect from our kids which means it takes time to rebuild that trust and connection, to create a safe space where they want to share. I have a hunch, though, that a game like The Color Monster could support this process (especially if you have younger kids and everyone plays together).
So if you’re looking for a way to teach your kids about emotions, to support them, and to connect, I’d definitely recommend The Color Monster Board Game. Find it on Amazon or ask about it at your local bookstore.
Chrissy Wissler is a professional writer of fiction, parenting blogs and raising differently-wired kids, and also—a gamer. She runs the Homeschool Board Game Club in Torrance, California, sharing her love of games and supporting kids with the community. If you’d like to learn more, check out: facebook.com/chrissykidsboardgames and ChrissyWissler.com.
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The Color Monster boardgame
Number of Players: 2-5 (cooperative)
Age Range: 4+ (old enough to talk about feelings)
Playtime: 25 minutes