Question: What inspired the concept of Kimochis Australia?
Hilary Friedland: Kimochis were created by Oscar-winning film animator Nina Rappaport-Rowen, one of the producers of the first Despicable Me films. She was deeply affected by the devastating 1999 US Columbine shootings and was horrified at how kids could be so destructive. This inspired the creation of Kimochis, which are designed to get children talking about their feelings rather than bottling them up, or acting out on them.
Question: Why was it important for you to bring Kimochis to Australia?
Hilary Friedland: I became aware of Kimochis on a trip to the USA to visit my son. When I was there, I recognized the profound impact these toys can have, and how much children were benefitting from them, and thought, -We need this in Australia.'
Question: Can you talk us through what you hope each Kimochis achieves?
Hilary Friedland: There are a total of seven characters in the Kimochis range- Cloud, Bug, Huggtopus, Cat, Lovey Dove, Bella Rose and Clover, and whilst each of them has differing personality traits, the hope for each is the same – to help children better identify their feelings and learn how to talk about them.
Cloud is the most unpredictable of the lot- one moment he's sad, the next he's happy. This makes it great for kids who struggle with moodiness and self regulation, and who have a hard time controlling their emotions.
Bug on the other hand, is thoughtful and extremely cautious. Kids who find it hard to deal with change or try new things can easily relate!
Huggtopus is who everyone relies on to put a smile on their face. Great for children with big personalities and for those who love to show affection but may not recognize personal boundaries or be able to read other people's signals.
If your child's the bossy type, Cat is right up their alley. She's persuasive and a natural born leader, but sometimes, this can lead to confrontations or -cat fights'.
Lovey Dove is kind and nurturing, and always there to help sort out difficult situations. Kids who are peacemakers, great listeners and problem solvers will identify with this character.
Bella Rose is sweet and conscientious, and is the sensitive one in the group. Kids who are insecure or tend to be closed off about their feelings can use Bella Rose to learn that it's okay to open up.
Finally, Clover is great for those who are a bit careless and forgetful. Ever the optimist, he has the best of intentions, but luck isn't always on his side and he employs jokes and charm to get by.
Question: How can Kimochis combat bullying?
Hilary Friedland: Kimochis can help children better identify their emotions so that they can express what they are feeling verbally or through the Kimochi rather than acting out on those feelings. No matter what kind of emotion it is being experienced, Kimochis encourage discussion about it – for example they teach kids that it's okay to be mad, but not to be mean. By being able to more acutely pinpoint what they are feeling and understand the reasons behind such feelings, thereby learning not to numb out or suppress feelings which remain churning within. Kimochis- particularly Bug and Cloud, can help teach kids to be more patient, understanding, and express fear and apprehension. What can get forgotten is that the bully needs to express their feelings just as much as the victim. The Kimochis way teaches children to honour difference, not to mock or victimize.
Question: How do Kimochis increase communication and develop self-esteem?
Hilary Friedland: One of the core goals that the Kimochis range achieves is increasing emotional intelligence (EQ) in children. Through identifiable characters, Kimochis provides a safe space for parents and children to communicate and -redo' inappropriate feelings fueled behaviours until kids learn to manage that particular feeling. When children have a better EQ, they are more aware of themselves, their goals, intentions, responses, and this builds self esteem and self worth.
Question: How has Australia received Kimochis?
Hilary Friedland: I'm glad to say that we've received an overwhelmingly positive response, recognition and acceptance of Kimochis here in Australia. Besides the charm and beauty of each character, Kimochis are specifically designed upon evidence based research in the fields of social and emotional learning, and emotional intelligence.
Question: How did you see your children improve with the use of Kimochis?
Hilary Friedland: I saw the benefits of Kimochis in helping my grandchildren deal with their parents' divorce. Through use of Kimochis, the kids were more confident communicating their feelings with their parents, and could transfer some of the more painful feelings onto the characters, which helped make the whole process a lot easier to deal with leading to greater understanding between everyone.
Question: Where can we find Kimochis?
Hilary Friedland: Kimochis can be purchased on our website, kimochis.com.au, and online retailers nation-wide. A full stockist list is listed on our website. You can also find Kimochis being used in over 3000 schools around the country!
Question: How can Australia support Kimochis to ensure the children in need receive them?
Hilary Friedland: A big part of Kimochis' expansion into so many schools and psychologist offices, autism specialists and homes nation-wide has been via word of mouth. Kids come home and tell their parents about them after using them in class, and the word just spreads from there. We also market via educational conferences, so if you're a teacher or educator, consider taking a look at the range and see what it can do.
Question: What's next?
Hilary Friedland: I hope to see the continual expansion of Kimochis in more schools and learning centres throughout Australia, as well as finding other programs dedicated to helping children with disabilities where we can lend a hand and enrich kids' lives.
Interview by Brooke Hunter