Connection Zoo Play-Based Learning Helps Kids Feel Well, Do Well and Be Well.
New Social and Emotional Learning Game Empowers Children to Thrive in Everyday Social Situations.
Read our press release here.
Read our press release here.
Having recently started ConnectHuman and launched Connection Zoo, I regularly need to seek out and rely upon experts in many different areas for advice and instruction. The challenges with this include knowing who to call, how to most effectively leverage their expertise, and what to learn to do myself vs. hand over to an expert.
It’s like someone telling you how to make a peanut butter sandwich, but you don’t even know where the peanut butter is. Can you relate??
Imagine that you want to make a peanut butter sandwich. You’ve heard they are really great and maybe have been told you either need to know how to make them or need to find someone that can make them for you. Like happens so often with experts, when they’re teaching, they leave out the steps that are obvious (to them). So, the instruction might go like this:
Easy, right? Well if you’ve never made a PB sandwich, you might not know the following:
Here’s just 1 example of how I often experience this:
I’m don’t have IT or developer expertise…and I don’t want to have it. But I do need to know enough to keep my website in good shape. There are 7 systems that support our website with separate accounts, invoices and customer and technical support teams. There isn’t one expert to call that has expertise in all the systems we use, so I regularly contact technical support teams when I need help. Most of these companies don’t have people you can talk to; it’s either email or chat. With one company, I sent an email to technical support and explained I was one of two people with a startup and no developer experience. They sent me standard language (I’m sure they didn’t actually read what I sent) in response. I know it was standard language because when I didn’t hear back again after I replied trying to explain my situation again, another person sent me the same thing. It said, “If you or your engineers have questions….” What?!?!
Your need for experts may be related to medical situations, home repair, your career or other area of your life.
Please start conversations with the people who seek out your help with great questions like:
Try to be patient and be sure not to eliminate important steps, like where to find the peanut butter (which may include how to open the cupboard). Remember to check for understanding.
(I’m listening to my advice as well so I’m a better expert too)
Let me know if I can help by being an expert for you, referring you to an expert, letting you cry on my shoulder after a challenging situation with an expert.
While we’ve been developing Connection Zoo, I’ve learned a ton about Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) and have dived deeper into Social and Emotional Intelligence (SEI); in fact, I just received another coaching certification, in SEI. If you need an expert in this area…speaker, consultant, workshops, coaching…let me know (firstname.lastname@example.org)! I’ll bring my expertise in a way that meets you where you are and ensures you accomplish your goals!
Next up at ConnectHuman, we’re learning about using social media to grow our business. SO overwhelming! So, we found an awesome expert to get us started…shout out to Jenna Redfield at Twin Cities Collective. We’re also working with the amazing Shelly Dvorak at Sphere 421 on influencer marketing. We’ll be connecting with some really interesting people who are making a difference.
Wish us luck!
Yours truly and perfectly flawed,
P.S. I am also an expert on peanut butter; it is my favorite food. If you ever need ideas about fun ways to eat it or want to know my favorite kinds of PB, send me a message!
Kjirsten is CEO and Co-Founder of ConnectHuman, maker of Connection Zoo. Their mission is all about creating human connection that improves well-being and performance. She is primarily focused on launching Connection Zoo with her son and is also doing select work with organizations, including workshops, coaching, consulting and speaking.
I had a dream last night and woke up feeling like my dream may have been more than a meaningless story I was living out in my sleep. I felt like there was a message I was supposed to receive.
While I never remember all the details of my dreams, I do remember the main elements of this story. In this dream, I was in a room (maybe a hotel room) with my husband. There was a knock on the door, and I remember us looking at each other feeling surprised; we weren’t expecting anyone. Upon answering the door, we saw a group of people, energetic and loud, with scooters or motorcycles or maybe those cool Polaris Slingshots. They were excited and wanted us to join them for an adventure. We had to leave right that minute. But it was cold, and I didn’t have pants. I had shorts on, but I get cold easily so that wouldn’t be enough to keep me warm. I felt a huge urge to go, and at the same time a strong hesitance because I wasn’t ready. I hadn’t planned for this. My husband (who is my biggest supporter) told me, “you’ll be ok.” That was enough for me to make the decision to just pick up and go. And then I woke up.
What was the message? Right now, I’m in a stage in our startup business that has me encountering new things every day. I LOVE to learn, however, many of these things are not on my list of things I want to learn, and they show up when I’m not expecting them and can feel overwhelming. Maybe I’m not ready to run an ecommerce product business, I find myself thinking more often than I’d like to. Maybe I should have kept doing what was familiar and comfortable; that would have been easier, right? Just a few more years, and then I would live my dream.
As I look back over my career, I am reminded that at every company, at least once, I was given a position or project that on paper I was not qualified to do and was not in my plan. Many times, the story I told myself was that I wasn’t ready. But in every case, I had someone who believed in me, with no proof I could do it based on my experience, and who told me I would figure it out. And in every case, I not only figured it out, but those were some of my biggest career accomplishments.
As I look back on those opportunities I realize when you take the leap and follow your heart:
When I decided to leave my last Corporate America job, I knew it was time. Time for me to do what I had been dreaming about for years: starting my own business. But was I ready? I had heard a lot about the ups and downs entrepreneurs regularly experience. Was that what I wanted? It was easier for me to find reasons not to go. The voices inside and outside my head were telling me that status quo would be easier, more comfortable and that it was the most responsible choice. It was the choice I was supposed to make, right? I had been preparing financially for years, but this wasn’t the timing in my plan. Having a plan makes me feel safer and in control. However, waiting until I have a rock-solid plan guarantees I’ll miss some of the juicy, life changing moments that come with leaping.
So, I leaped! I asked my son if he wanted to take a shot building a business and launching the product he designed. He, of course, said “yes.”
Was I ready for this new path? Only one way to find out! I walked out the door with my shorts on, got onto the back of the scooter and rode off into the adventure with my hair blowing in the wind and a big smile on my face. Some days I feel the cold and wish I had waited until I had my pants. Other days, I’m filled with the warmth of a support team that reminds me of my dream and my capabilities and the knowledge that we’re bringing products (and eventually services) that positively impact the lives of kids and their families (https://connectionzoo.com/).
Sadly, when I left my last job, one of the most common reactions I heard was, “I wish I could.” My response, “You can!” I also heard repeatedly:
Do any of these sound familiar? I’m not saying these aren’t legitimate reasons. However, it’s important to examine if they’re really driven by fear vs. the right reasons to stay. It’s easier and more comfortable to just keep doing what we’re doing, even if we’re miserable and/or being nudged by a dream we wish we could pursue. But what do we lose by staying? And what might we gain by getting on the scooter and riding off into an adventure that feeds our soul? The other thing I heard when I told people I was leaving to start this business was, “Of course you are!” Those are the words I choose to keep with me…”Of course I can. Of course I will!”
As we finish this year and look to the new year, it’s a great time to reflect. Consider these questions:
My wish for you is that instead of setting New Year’s resolutions, you set a “New Life” resolution to choose and go after the life you want. There are a lot of things you can do to make it happen; I’ll offer what I believe are the 3 most important:
Here’s to making choices that fill our heart, mind and soul. Imagine it – Share it – Believe it – LIVE it! Cheers!
Yours truly and perfectly flawed,
Join me for the opportunity to discover and create a vision for the life you want to live at my upcoming workshop: Your Life, Your Vision, Your Story. https://www.facebook.com/events/974806359555569/
Kjirsten is CEO and Co-Founder of ConnectHuman. Their mission is all about creating human connection that improves well-being and performance. She is primarily focused on launching Connection Zoo with her son and is also doing select work with organizations, including workshops, coaching and consulting.
Read the previous Authentic Connections Blog: :
Play is an incredible teacher, it’s the language of children, and it’s FUN!
Some of my best childhood memories are times we left the house in the morning to play with friends and didn’t come home until we were hungry, or it was dark. Actually, we often played night games so play resumed when it got dark. The adventures we had sneaking under a fence to get closer to some horses (and then being chased, thinking we wouldn’t make it back out in time), playing in the muddy creek, riding our bikes to Ginny May’s Donuts or Lewis Eastgate for ice cream cones. When it was too cold to be outside (I grew up in Minnesota), we’d make blanket forts, read, take our Barbies camping, make up games or play board games.
I never thought about my play as learning and development; it was just fun. But we were left on our own to make group decisions about how we would spend our time, having to learn independence, teamwork, negotiation and influence skills. We had to solve problems and resolve conflicts on our own. We had to find ways to not be bored. If we got lost, we had to find our way home – with no phones or GPS. If we got hurt, we had to figure out how to get help. We were kids. Outside of school and a few chores, our job was to play. Our reality today…“Children’s freedom to play and explore on their own, independent of direct adult guidance and direction, has declined greatly.” (Psychology Today).
“Play is essential to optimal child development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children,” according to an American Academy of Pediatrics report. The report discusses the cognitive and developmental advantages of toys that give children opportunities for imagination and invention and, above all, toys that encourage play that brings parents and children together.
7 Ways Play Develops Us:
Fun fact: the skills above with an * are represented on the World Economic Forum’s list of some of the highest demand most needed workforce skills for future success (read, my last blog post). Why are these skills becoming more important? They are things robots can’t do (at least not yet). And what kind of person do you want to work for?
Studies show that kids are playing a lot less these days. And much of today’s play is scheduled or inside. Play is also becoming much more digital. My son loves to “get together with his friends” to play video games. He doesn’t even have to leave the house or invite anyone over to hang out with them. It’s becoming easier and easier to connect with friends digitally, not just in conversation but also in play. Some scheduled and digital play is probably fine for most kids who are comfortable socially connecting with others, in person, regularly. For kids that experience social discomfort or worry, as I did growing up, this can make it easier to hide from or avoid social human connection that may be uncomfortable but is so crucial for happiness and well-being and development.
So, what to do? Here are some ideas I’ve come across from a variety of sources:
We must prioritize play not just because it builds important skills, but also because it creates some of our best memories. Let’s go make memories!
In a previous blog, I talked about advances in technology related to our need for social connection and it’s impact on our health. I’ve also been considering the relationship of technology and human social connection with respect to the skills we’ll need in the future to be successful.
The prevalence of AI will only make social and emotional skills more necessary and valuable, because these are skills machines aren’t capable of (at least not yet).
Think about experiences you’ve had with automated customer service systems. They do a good job in many cases guessing what you need based on your selections from an automated menu or how you respond to the computerized voice that asks you, “What can I help you with today?” Most of us know if you say, “representative” enough times you can eventually get to a real person. We want a real person who we know is listening to us. Ideally, we want someone who cares and really wants to help us solve our issue. Part of that may be related to us thinking it’s faster to talk to someone, but part of it is related to a strong desire for real human connection.
Let’s take this to another level and consider the advances of technology in medicine. We now have robots performing surgeries. There are still doctors present during these procedures, however, we must assume that at some point they might not need to be present at all. While the technical side of medicine may be replaced more and more with AI, the best doctors will bring social and emotional intelligence and skills to their work in a way that makes a profound difference in their patient’s experience. Medical situations are often full of emotion, worry and sometimes fear. These are things machines are not good at picking up on and responding to in a way that says, “I understand and care.” We want – actually need – the doctor that takes the time to listen, shows empathy and compassion and really cares about getting us the best care.
Social and Emotional skills are among those that will be most needed and in demand in the future, according to the World Economic Forum. Skills like empathy, creative problem-solving, negotiation and collaboration. In fact, 61% of executives in one study said emotional intelligence will become a “must-have” skill in the next 1-5 years. I’m tired of hearing these skills referred to as “soft skills.” They’re hard! The best term I’ve heard for them is “Power Skills.” That’s what I’m calling them from now on!
We are all social and emotional animals. We all have emotions that we need to manage. Strong awareness of self and others, and the ability to manage our emotions, develop relationships and make sound choices is what allows us to connect with others in ways that positively affect our health, happiness and performance.
Impacts of Strong Social and Emotional Skills include:
As we rely more and more on technology for work, play and connection with others, we are no longer building social and emotional skills as naturally as we used to (read about Play ). So, now we need to directly teach these skills, starting with kids. Schools understand this and are prioritizing Social and Emotional Learning (SEL), however, we need to teach these skills at home as well. In fact, we already are with our own behaviors, so we need to pay attention to how we’re showing up and what we’re modeling in terms of our own social and emotional intelligence and skills. We also need to teach young professional entering the workforce. Frankly, as we’ve all become more reliant on technology for work, play and connection we could probably all use some development in this area.
There are 5 competencies along with related skills that are often used when teaching SEL. Think about how you can incorporate these skills into daily activities. Talk about your emotions and teach your kids how to talk about what they’re feeling. Building social and emotional intelligence and skills – Power Skills – takes work and a lot of practice. What are you waiting for?
We are living in a time of incredible advances in technology, including Artificial Intelligence or AI. This is exciting! We now have machines to do a lot of the mundane, repetitive, routine work we once had to do. We even have access to our own personal, virtual assistants, like Alexa, to do more of the work that can take so much time. We don’t even have to leave the house to get work done or connect with people. This is great news! We now have less work and more time than ever to do the things we love with the people we love, right? Or do we?
What if we’re losing as much as we’re gaining with these technological advances? What if we’re losing a part what makes us human; a part of the human experience that is vital for our survival?
We are social animals! Our brains are wired for social connection – it’s a basic human need.
We have more connections than ever before, but that doesn’t mean we actually feel more connected. With so many connections, you may be surprised to know that…
It’s important to distinguish between digital connections and in-person, human connection. Consider the power of a smile. “Each time you smile, you throw a little feel-good party in your brain.” Smiles release natural stress relievers, pain killers and serotonin, all which help us feel good. And…smiles are contagious! So, your smile doesn’t only help you feel good, it does the same for others around you. In case you’re wondering, you don’t get the same effects from a smiley face emoji! 😊
How does social connection improve physical health and mental and emotional well-being?
We’re not going to stop advancements in technology; we don’t want to. But we do need to pause and consider how we prioritize human connection and a human experience that allows us to thrive in the midst of incredible technological advancement. At least until we become machines ourselves. 🤔
Today, I ask you to join me in putting down your phone, stepping away from your social media and sharing a genuine smile with someone, looking someone in the eyes and thanking them, giving someone a hug and telling them you care. Our health and happiness depend on it!
It was August 2003. New York City lost all power. Just like that, computer screens went black, elevators stopped between floors, and subways stranded riders below the streets. Panic and fear set in as people wondered if this was another act of terrorism.
“Kjirsten, did you see the pictures of people in NYC breathing into paper bags because they were so scared?” a co-worker asked me. I had not, but images came quickly to my mind, and I felt a familiar feeling of fear wash over my whole body leaving me feeling light-headed and weak. In that moment, I relived the many times I had relied on a paper bag to help me breathe. Growing up I experienced regular anxiety, although almost no one knew. I believed that what I felt made me broken and weak, and my perfectionist tendencies required me to hide what I was feeling at all costs. I couldn’t risk being found out! In the times when my anxiety got so bad I couldn’t breathe, the only tool I had was my paper bag. While it helped calm my breathing in the moment, it did nothing to teach me that it was ok to talk about what I was experiencing or how ask for help. As a result, I continued for many years to try to manage what was sometimes intense fear or panic, all by myself.
It makes me sad to think about how alone and scared I often felt, and that I never asked the people in my life who loved me and were there to support me for help. But I can’t go back. So, as I look back, I choose to focus on the gifts I discovered in my fear. Courage and adaptability are the ones I am most thankful for and proud of. The courage it took for me to face everyday situations that terrified me, and the ability to quickly evaluate a situation, the people and the environment to design my survival plan have served me well throughout my life. I now channel that courage and adaptability not to survive, but to thrive.
My breath used to be a symbol of fear and weakness for me; I now consider it a source of strength, calm, and presence. My mental health practice is as big a priority as my physical health practice. While I still experience fear and anxiety more than I would like to, I don’t see it as a weakness; I don’t see myself as something that needs to be fixed. So, in those moments of anxiety, with greater awareness, self-acceptance, courage, and the skills to talk about what I’m experiencing, I am more likely to pause, take some calming breaths and consider how I might take care of myself to successfully manage the situation. And…I’m not ashamed to ask for help anymore.
We have all experienced feelings of anxiety. Why is it that when we experience something related to our mental health, we shamefully hide it for fear of being judged, but when we have a physical health condition, like broken bone or the flu, we have no problem letting people know and asking for help?! What if we were more intentional about treating both mental and physical health similarly in terms of our beliefs, the conversations we have, and with a focus on preventive care, including building lifelong health practices, as well as treatment?
If you can relate to my experience, you have probably developed practices that help you manage your anxiety. Here are some of the things that I do:
If you can’t personally relate to me or others who experience anxiety or other mental health conditions, here are some suggestions to help you be more supportive (I continue to work on these myself):
So now, before I post my first blog ever, I am going to take a moment to breathe, the way I have learned…with strength and courage.
Yours truly and perfectly flawed,