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From Playing with Dolls to Learning About Empathy

Girls with mini dolls.
From Playing with Dolls to Learning About Empathy
From Playing with Dolls to Learning About Empathy
Teaching the concept of empathy to kids is no easy feat… but we do have a simple suggestion that’ll speed up the process. 
Let them play with dolls. 
Dreaming up stories, creating make-believe worlds, and diving into role play can spark a child’s creativity, improve their social skills – and yes – teach them about empathy*. 
Empathy is the ability to step into another person’s shoes, understand what they’re going through, and react appropriately. The “understanding” part of the process begins with expressing emotions, and playing with dolls gives kids a safe space to rehearse just that!  
But your guidance can go a long way.  
How, you ask? By becoming their play partner and prompting them with role play ideas! This can help children understand emotions and how to react when other people are experiencing them. 
Here are a few Lori-tastic role play ideas to get you inspired: 
Role Play Idea: Leighton is all packed up for a trip and she’s excited to see her extended family at a big gathering. The tricky part is that it’s overseas and Leighton is afraid of flying! 

  • Prompt: Ask your child what they would do if a friend told them they were scared to fly in an airplane. 

Mini doll with travel accessories.
Role Play Idea: Ilyssa is a bit nervous today because her puppy, Indigo, hasn’t been feeling well and she’s now taking him to a veterinary clinic for a check-up.  

  • Prompt: Encourage your child to imagine they’re at the clinic with Ilyssa and ask them, “What would you do if you were sitting next to Ilyssa?”

Role Play Idea: All of the students at the make-believe Lori Academy are having tons of fun at recess… except Jessalyn. She’s sitting down by herself and doesn’t look very happy. 

  • Prompt: Ask the little one in your family what they would do if they noticed Jessalyn sitting alone during recess, while other kids were playing.

Mini student doll next to school locker.
Role Play Idea: Ansley is practicing for a show jumping competition with her horse, Arabel. No matter how many times she tries, there is one obstacle in the course that she just can’t master, which frustrates her. 

  • Prompt: Encourage your kiddo to pretend they’re at Ansley’s practice and ask them, “What would you say to Ansley if she expressed her frustration to you?”

Role Play Idea: Cornelia is a foodie and cooking is one of her favorite things to do! Today is her best friend’s birthday and she’s planning a big feast, but she’s had a very long day and is feeling quite tired. 

  • Prompt: Ask your child what they would do if they were invited to this feast, but knew just how tired Cornelia was. 

Mini doll with cooking accessories.
Although guidance is helpful when it comes to teaching kids about empathy, it’s important to keep in mind that children can learn effectively through free play as well. After giving them these prompts, step aside and observe as they play and problem-solve solo (or with a sibling/buddy). They might surprise you with how much they’ve learned!  
Have more role play ideas in mind? Or know other ways to teach kids about empathy and compassion? Tell us in the comments! 
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