A few weeks ago, we posted an article about the ways in which young children demonstrate and express empathy (use the following links to find the article in English or in Spanish). This week, we follow-up with a list of books and activities to help you help children practice those important relationship-building skills.
Whether you are working with children in-person or virtually, there are many activities that you can facilitate to help them learn empathy skills and deepen their emotional intelligence. The activities below introduce the concept of empathy and encourage children to think about how they can be more kind and compassionate towards their peers.
Image & activity from Keep it Kool in Kinderland
This simple activity is easy to set up and offers a tangible experience to help children understand the lasting impact of hurtful words.
Cut out hearts with construction paper and give each child a heart to hold. Or, use one large piece of craft paper and allow all of the children to share one big, group-sized heart. Take turns saying words or actions that could hurt someone’s feelings, while crinkling the heart each time. Let children know that this is what happens when we use unkind words or actions to hurt other people. Afterward, unfold the hearts and try to repair them by making them flat or by using stickers or bandages to repair them.
Explain to children that the wrinkles happen when we use hurtful words, and the bandages show what happens when we say we’re sorry. This activity helps children to see not only the impact of hurtful words, but also the powerful impact of saying we’re sorry. We can help to bandage up and flatten out the wrinkles with kind words and apologies to make our friends’ hearts feel better while their hurt feelings heal. You might ask children what else they can do to make someone feel better after they’ve hurt them, by asking “How else can we make our friends’ hearts feel better? Maybe we could give them hugs, or share a special toy with them? What other ways can we help to heal wrinkled hearts?”
Adapting this Activity to Virtual Learning
This activity can also be done via virtual learning by having the same conversation, but with a demonstration of wrinkling and flattening out a construction paper heart during a video conference. You might ask children what kinds of things they think could help to repair the heart, by asking questions such as: “Will band-aids make it better? How can we make our heart flat and smooth again?” You can then show children on camera how the wrinkles can be flattened, and how we can use band-aids to help the heart heal, just as we can tell our friends that we are sorry if we have hurt them.
Because children are at home, you might ask them how they can show their parents or siblings that they are sorry if they hurt them to make the activity more relevant to their current environment