3 Activities to teach Empathy to 4-5 year olds

file0002034654185Ages four and five are an important time for children to build awareness of social and emotional skills. An important one is learning empathy, which can teach your child at an early age how to respect others and be aware of those around them. Here are three great simple activities for learning empathy from Marci Johnson, Ed.M..

Social/Emotional–Learning Empathy

Pointing out Baby

  • Goal of Activity: To teach your child empathy.
  • Description: Compassion can be taught and practiced from an early age, even if your child does not naturally respond to other children’s feelings.
  • Directions: Always point out babies and small children to your 4-year-old. Model how to respond in a warm friendly manner to all small children, and how you want your child to notice others around him and how they might be feeling.

Bringing Home Baby

  • Goal of Activity: To teach your child empathy and how to practice using gentle hands.
  • Description: Compassion, gentle hands and a soft touch can be taught and practiced with a doll.
  • Materials Needed: Baby doll
  • Directions:
  1. Give your child a baby doll and model for him how to hold the baby with gentle hands and a soft touch.
  2. You can swaddle the baby and make a bed out of a shoe box.
  3. Let your child sing the “baby to sleep.”
  • Notes: Both boys and girls should learn how to gently hold baby dolls, especially boys who may need extra support nurturing something small and vulnerable.

Angels and Stinkers

  • Goal of Activity: To teach child empathy and relationships through role-play.
  • Description: By taking on different roles, children explore emotions and different aspects of the human psyche in a safe and healthy way.
  • Directions:
  1. Have your child stand behind you making faces (sticking out tongue, etc.) while you pretend to talk to someone in front of you.
  2. Create a signal (like scratching your head) so the child knows you are about to turn around.
  3. When you turn around, the child switches from making faces (stinkers) to looking angelic.