Tina Robinson on how play develops social and emotional intelligence (#5)

How did you learn to interact with others? We probably missed this class at school – or did we?

Today we talk with Tina Robinson about the vital role of play in developing social and emotional intelligence. 

We also discuss how leaders can use play to bring teams together to create collaborative, high performing cultures. 

Listen on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher or Simplecast.

Tina has two decades of experience working with children including children with disabilities and trauma. 

She is passionate about developing the social and emotional skill of children that will prepare them for school and for life. She believes that play forms a vital part of this development and that play is an undervalued skill not just in children but in adults too. 

She has spent most of her career leading teams that support children and their families. She has a refreshing approach to leadership that has helped her to turn around the culture and performance of toxic teams. The last twenty minutes are jammed packed with insights on leadership and culture. 

You can connect with Tina by email (t.robinson2204@gmail.com) or LinkedIn

Show Notes

1:58 – bucket filling.
5:03 – why working with children is important.
7:14 – educating parents are important.
9:02 – the critical soft skills.
13:32 – education system becoming more aware of soft skills.
18:58 – emotional regulation
21:14 – being curious instead of judgemental.
22:54 – navigating difficult conversations.
25:37 – quote: all behaviour is communication
27:14 – power of empathy.
28:44 – emotional regulation and empathy.
30:00 – how play teaches social and emotional skills.
32:28 – importance of labelling emotions.
33:18 – acknowledging emotions in others.
36:01 – easier to get through to someone in a state of play.
37:49 – play is not just for kids.
39:37 – How to use play when leading people.
42:37 – you perform better when you’re having fun.
43:25 – stress can be good. Constant stress is not.
44:19 – being playful builds rapport because it requires vulnerability.
45:27 – example of how play turned around toxic work culture.
51:25 – setting the example as the leader.
56:54 – trust is respected more than its taken advantage of.
58:44 – self care and self talk.
01:02:35 – healthy boundaries.
01:03:34 – self awareness.

Key Quotes 

“All behaviour is communication.” 

“When you are operating from an empty bucket you cannot share with others and they cannot share with you.” 

“All parents are learning, none of us have been given that book when we left the hospital.” 

“For children to succeed at school it is not about the content. It is how they learn and if they are feeling safe.” 

“If you don’t have a basic need met it is hard to learn.” 

“Listening to people is a really challenging skill.” 

“We all come with our own history of what our parents have instilled in us.” 

“It wasn’t holding my child back. It was an extra year of opportunity.” 

“Our children put mirrors up to us all the time – this is where self-awareness kicks in….” 

“Self-awareness is a huge thing: those leaders who are more self-aware do better.” 

“Who are we to judge other people and the experiences they have had in their life?” 

“As a parent, your core being is to defend your child” 

“If you don’t regulate your emotions you will fly off the handle” 

“Asking the questions and being curious as to what is happening, over and over….it amazing how the rapport builds and children are more likely to have conversation…” 

“Children are more likely to have a conversation with you when they are doing what they love” 

“Play is a children’s work…as adults we can learn from that.” 

“Play should be a part of our everyday.” 

“Play and being creative was a central part of team building for me.” 

“Play opens up the creativity and the innovation. Play gets people to think differently.” 

“When people are in a constant state of stress….it blocks how they think.” 

“Watching how they play and interact told me a lot about them.”  

“Good people do not take advantage…more often you need to take care of the good people….and checking if they need a break.” 

“The best sign of leadership….you can step out and they don’t rely on you anymore.” 


Have You Filled a Bucket Today?: A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids by Carol McCloud  

Concept of bucket filling explained 

Strategic Play: The Creative Facilitator’s Guide by Jacqueline Lloyd Smith and Denise Meyerson 

Work Well-being: Leading thriving teams in rapidly changing times by Mark McCrindle and Ashley Fell 

Maslow hierarchy of needs 

Lizard brain 

Dramatic Play/Messy Play/Social Play 

Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It by Chris Voss and Tahl Raz 

A Hole in the Bucket (Digitally Remastered 2012) 

How to Strengthen yours child’s emotional intelligence by TGI  

Emotions and Play, on Raising Childrens Network  

Emotional development in Chidlren with Autism, on Raising Children s Network   

Why Emotional intelligence is important in leadership, Harvard   

About the author

Divan and Mark are co-hosts of the Candour Communication Podcast where we discuss interpersonal communication and all the human stuff that gets in the way.