Summary: A printable empathy game plus prop ideas for making it fun for kids, to practice stepping into someone else’s shoes and develop consideration for others.
“What’s she feeling, sweetheart?”
I am asking my son to stop and think about the way he’s playing with his baby sister. I can see he doesn’t quite understand what I’m getting at.
“Look at her face, honey.”
She’s struggling to get out of his arms now, and I know a scream is about to erupt…
But he stops tickling her belly and starts to say, “Goo goo, gah gah” in a funny voice instead. He has realised that she wasn’t enjoying their interaction anymore, so changed the game.
She squirms around to face him, and they start playing again.
Learning About Empathy
We talk a lot about recognising what other people are feeling, and the Empathy Game I describe in this post is one activity that has helped us practice. Developmentally it will take children many years to empathise on a regular (and consistent) basis but small steps over time remind us all of the importance of this habit. Talking about empathy with the kids is a potent reminder for me to work on this all-important character trait in my own life as well.
Make Your Own Empathy Game
To make your Empathy Game, you will need to print out a set of Situation Cards which you can download by clicking here. The situations feature a “he” or a “she” (all children) and are fairly typical situations for kids 5 to 10 years old.
The simplest way to play is to cut up the cards then take turns reading them and answering “How would they feel?” To make the game more fun, however, you can use props for your children to explain what the character may be feeling or to give them a selection of choices if they need prompts for their answers (see lots of ideas for that below).
There are 16 situations in total. Here are a few emotions to go over together if you need some inspiration for new feelings to discuss:
Make Your Own Props
Here are some ideas for props you can use to make the Empathy Game more interactive and memorable for your child:
You can whip up a set of emotion cards if you have some magazines lying around – check out this post for directions.
If you have a sticker lover, create your own emotion stickers using this tutorial from Childhood 101.
You can create your own mix-and-match egg faces using this clever idea from Laughing Kids Learn.
For children who enjoy drawing you may like to use whiteboards and dry erase markers for a Pictionary-type game, as we did in this post.
You could also use a face felt board which I elaborated on here.
It’s also fun to role play with puppets, dolls, figurines or stuffed animals that your child likes to play with.
If you want a super quick activity, just fan the cards out to let the kids select one at random and then have them pull the face that the person in the situation card might make.
If you are interested in more hands-on activities to teach kids about positive character traits, you may like to have a look at my ebook Playing with Purpose: Character Building Made Fun with over 100 activities.
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This post was originally published on May 4, 2016.