One of our social groups has a number of friends with inappropriate tone of voice. I’m sure you all know those friends that use that “angry” tone of voice to both peers and adults when anything goes against their plan. It can be as simple as a friend bumping in to them, having to wait too long for a turn, or even asking a friend to try their idea. Many kids we see in our social group struggle with flexibility and perspective taking, so it’s not surprising that tone of voice is an issue. Too many times I’ve seen adults (myself included) say to kids “Is that how we talk to teachers/friends?” Of course the child knows the answer is “no” but how do we give them opportunity to really practice and understand how important tone of voice is? Jill and I attempted to do this with some help from Dr. Lynne Kenney who introduced us to Kimochis, these adorable stuffed toys that can be used to teach emotions.
Our group is full of very energetic boys. Given this, and their difficulty with using and interpreting body language, we decided to ensure movement was a component of this activity. The boys were to choose a Kimochi from a bag. Each stuffed toy has an adorable simple facial expression, with the emotion written on the back (e.g. confused, excited, mad, happy, etc.). The child was to then move their body up the ramp (if you don’t have a ramp, do it across the room) demonstrating the particular emotion they chose. Holding the Kimochi was helpful for them to “check in” to see if their face and their body matched the emotion in their hand. The other friends were supposed to guess what emotion they were “acting” out. Then, when they got to the end of the ramp, and before jumping into the ball pit (an exercise in impulse control too), they were given a phrase to say in the given emotion. This same phrase “It’s dinner time.” was used for every emotion to demonstrate that you can say the same phrase a million different ways, and it changes the meaning. This led to lots of discussion with everyone around why you might say the phrase that way. They were able to generate that you may say it like you are mad because you don’t want to stop playing your Wii. You might say it sad because you know you’re having broccoli and you hate broccoli. You might say it excited because you’re going out to dinner!
Next week, we plan to shift the activity to phrases that they often say “It’s my turn,” “Can you stop?” “I don’t want to do that,” etc. in the moment, and practice the differences in tone, and point out others’ body language in reaction to their words and tone. How does it change? What does it mean? Should they try to say that again? The hope is that through continued repetitive practice of tone of voice, kids can start learning that how you say something makes all the difference.
Submitted by Meghan G. Graham M.S. CCC-SLP
If you like this activity, you will love the activities available in our Social Adventures app.