Sofia Dickens: Building Emotional Intelligence In Kids Across The CountryJune 19, 2018
Swedish-born Sofia Dickens didn’t learn about social and emotional intelligence until she was in college at Harvard.
Now, as founder of EQtainment and creator of the Q Wunder program – a show, app, toys and early learning curriculum – she’s helping young children across the country learn those important skills.
“When I became a parent for the first time, I looked for tools to teach my kids patience, social skills, self control and empathy, and none were there,” said Dickens, whom you may recognize from her days on TV in her previous careers. “Because of my background in educational media and emotional intelligence, I needed to answer that need for my own kids.”
When she started looking into the subject, she discovered Sweden had been using the concept in its schools.
“They were so forward thinking,” she said. “They incorporated it from the start and have had a lot of success.”
It’s also a concept Danes embrace.
Denmark regularly is ranked one of the happiest and most empathetic countries in the world, and that happiness is credited to weekly meetings where Danes talk about their problems, relationships and issues with each other.
“They get to verbalize and put themselves in other people’s shoes,” Dickens said. “What blew me away when I started diving into the research is that the several states in the U.S. that incorporated social and emotional learning into the classroom had incredible results in closing the educational gap in behavior. It started in Illinois. Now about 10 other states have mandated it, and that number is growing.”
Dickens, who lives in California with her husband and four children, began her career working on the quiz show Jeopardy! as a video correspondent.
“That totally changed the trajectory of my career,” she said. “I don’t think I would have ended up in television otherwise.”
For three years, she traveled the world taping clues for the show.
She left Jeopardy! for what she considered a “dream opportunity” to host Channel One News. The show brought daily global news to 8 million kids in the classroom.
“It went into half the classrooms in the country,” Dickens said. “It’s an MTV-meets-CNN format. It was an amazing experience.”
Later she covered politics, news, red-carpet entertainment and sports as host of Tru TV’s Hollywood Heat.
After marrying and starting her family, Dickens began delving into the research on emotional intelligence. She revisited the book that had given her that “aha” moment in college – Daniel Goleman’s “Emotional Intelligence.” She spent four years poring over the data.
Dickens founded EQtainment in 2014 after launching a Kickstarter campaign and now serves as the company’s chief creative officer.
“At the time there was not as much awareness of social and emotional learning,” she says. “Now people are looking for it, and teachers are trying to incorporate it into their schools.”
Children learn at different levels and speeds, and “QWunder addresses that,” she said, adding that the show and app are geared for children preschool to fourth grade.
One of the keys to learning anything is repetition, she added.
“We spent so much time working with our kids on math and science,” Dickens said. “There was a lot of practice and repetition involved. With social skills, we don’t put in the repetition with our kids. QWunder does that. They learn about life skills through the program, games, lessons, music and videos.”
Target was one of the first companies to sign on for her award-winning Q Wunder toys. And in 2017, Chick-fil-A featured Q Wunder’s app and toys in the kids’ meals it sold across the country.
The Q Wunder app has the Q Wunder show, where celebrity friends of Sofia and Q, the lovable genius monkey, help Q navigate his impulses and social scenarios. Q Wunder’s original pop music reinforces the life skills kids are learning on the show, such as patience, problem solving, humility, confidence, decision-making, focus and empathy.
“We have a celebrity almost every episode,” Dickens said. “It’s fun to get names on board like Michael Strahan, Nick and Vanessa Lachey, Willie Robertson [“Duck Dynasty”] and Debby Ryan from Disney who are excited about teaching kids these skills.”
According to Dickens, one of the most exciting things about social and emotional intelligence is that unlike IQ, it can grow for the rest of your life.
“Every day I find ways that I am growing in emotional intelligence,” she said.