Developing Empathy

Showing empathy means imagining how someone else is feeling and responding with care or kindness

child helps a friend with his shoe

What You Need to Know

As preschoolers start to develop empathy, they first need a basic understanding of emotions. Then, they will begin to understand that everyone has needs and that those needs may (and often are!) different from their own. As their understanding grows, they can help to meet other’s needs. You can support this development by prompting children to consider the abilities, needs, feelings, and perspectives of others and by giving them the opportunity to provide care to others in meaningful ways.

What It Looks Like

A quick glance at ways you can help students understand and develop empathy for others

Talk About Feelings

Prompting children to think about emotions supports their growing understanding that people, including themselves, have various needs and feelings.

Recognize Acts of Kindness

Acknowledging children’s acts of kindness is a great way to have children link their actions to how they may impact others in positive ways.

Highlight Care During Play

Focus children’s attention on the ways they take care of others. Encouragement like this supports their development of empathy.

COVID-19 ADAPTATIONS

Supporting Empathy

In this webinar, educational coaches Stephanie Adams and Caitlin Powell present strategies we can use to model and support empathy in virtual, hybrid, or physically distanced classroom environments.

kids showing empathy
children reading a book together

TEACHING THROUGH BOOKS

Creating Windows and Mirrors

Through books, young children can gain a window into the world and minds of others. Learn how we can use books to help young children engage in perspective-taking, celebrate who they are, and build empathy towards others. We’ve featured many great books to start with!

TRAUMA-INFORMED CARE

Empathy and Racial Trauma

Use this educator’s guide from The National Child Traumatic Stress Network that lays out how to address racial trauma in the classroom, including how you can model empathy when you address racial trauma.

FAMILY CONNECTION

Modeling Empathy at Home

Written by Amanda Morin for Understood.org, this blog is a great introduction for parents on what empathy is, how children learn this important skill, and how parents can model it at home.

CONSIDERING EQUITY

Equitable Interactions in ECE​

In this webinar, Stephanie Curenton and Bridget Hamre discuss an equity lens that teachers can use to understand how children of color feel in the early childhood classroom. They also share strategies to ensure children get the right amount of support.

Activity Cards

Part of the STREAMin3 curriculum, these activity cards provide simple and fun ways you can prompt children to consider the perspective of others and provide care
Using stories

How Can I Help?

Use scenarios or everyday moments to explore ways children can be helpers.

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using puppets, books

Is It Fair? Is It True?

Use puppets, books, or quick scenarios to discuss issues of fairness with children.

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cards and writing

Positive Notes

Encourage children to think about who they are grateful for and have them write positive notes.

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Model and Practice

Practice Gratitude

A focus on gratitude helps young children form and strengthen supportive relationships.

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Get Our Resource Guide

Includes questions and activities to guide your use of the videos, book suggestions, and activity cards featured for each of our core social-emotional skills