(StatePoint) One of the most important skills kids can learn is empathy — the ability to understand how others are feeling. A valuable social skill that’s often the mark of a good leader, empathy aids in communication and helps people build connections with others. Here are some ways you can teach your child empathy:
Read to your child when they are young, and encourage them to keep up with the habit when they are older by stocking your shelves with books and by making regular visits to the library. Requiring a leap of imagination as readers put themselves in the shoes of characters, it’s no surprise that a love of fiction can actually help build empathy, according to research. After you read together, talk to your child about the stories and ask them what they think each character was thinking or feeling, and why. You can also do this after watching movies and shows together too.
Introduce Interactive Toys
Interactive toys can foster your child’s nurturing skills. New, fun ones to consider include Hope the Healing Husky, a robotic dog that tells you how she’s feeling, and makes different sounds to show if she’s hungry, has a cold or fever, has a hurt leg or feels itchy. Kids can check her temperature, give a healing shot, bandage her ouchie and put on her recovery collar to help her heal. The robotic Glitter Me Kitten will also tell kids how she feels. When she’s happy or when you press her head, she’ll move her paw and place a glitter stamp on your hand to show she loves you. Kids can also watch her stripes change colors to show how she’s feeling, and respond to her needs by scratching her head, patting her on the back or feeding her.
Finally, kids can tuck Ivy the Bloom Bright Unicorn’s legs under her and boop her nose when it’s time to rest, blow her a kiss to see the flower in her mane bloom and light up, accessorize her tail, and sing-along with her to eight different tunes. More information can be found at vtechkids.com.
Whether playing house or playing superheroes, role-play is not only a chance to build worlds and be creative, but also to consider the feelings of someone else and act them out. You can encourage your child to play pretend by suggesting the activity and letting them invent the game. Keep kids inspired with a fun costume trunk full of hats, wigs and other accessories.
Empathy may be a social skill, but it’s as valuable as the ABCs. The good news is that interactive toys, games and literature can all help to cultivate your child’s empathy.