Resources to Help Children Build Empathy

This hurricane season has been devastating. Many children are without power and water, and others are recovering from severe flooding. This is worrisome not only for the families living through this trauma but also for the children who are watching and listening to the reports from news feeds. How can we help children work through their feelings? Exploring resources that show children what it means to be empathetic will generate important discussions about helping each other work through tough times.

Recognizing Feelings

How can you tell how someone is feeling? Sometimes, you can tell just by looking at the way they behave. Dr. Michele Borba, an Educational Psychologist, shared an important lesson in empathy from a classroom in Alberta, Canada. A teacher placed a seven-month-old baby in the middle of a circle of students. The teacher asked children to simply watch the baby and describe what the baby was feeling. She then asked them to support their statements. How do they know the baby is feeling frustrated when the baby can’t talk? This exercise gives children the opportunity to consider someone’s feelings by looking at their body language. Children can then use these same observation skills to recognize when classmates are in distress and think about ways they can help them work through their troubles (Borba, 2017).

Sesame Street

Sesame Street is offering a tremendous amount of valuable resources to help children recognize and deal with uncomfortable feelings. Show this video from Sesame Street in Communities to help students learn a coping strategy to manage troubled feelings. Be sure to preview the resources on the Sesame Street in Communities site before sharing them with children as some of the topics are designed for specific audiences.

Displaced Students

You may find new students joining your school soon. Families from Puerto Rico, Florida, and Houston may have to move while their homes are rebuilt. To make the transition as welcoming as possible, read the following two stories to your class before the new student arrives.

Welcome by Barroux

A group of polar bears drift away from their home after their section of an ice cap breaks away. They float through the ocean waves, looking for a place to live. Who will welcome them to their community? Explore how the polar bears must feel when others turn them away. Discuss why it’s important to make someone feel welcome in a new situation.

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson

If a new student arrived at your school wearing tattered clothes, how would everyone treat her? Unfortunately, in this story, the new student is ignored. The beautiful illustrations will support children as they infer character’s feelings in this heartbreaking story. Students will empathize with the characters while exploring their feelings and thinking about better ways to welcome strangers.

Works Cited:

Borba, Michele (2017, January 16). Cultivating Empathy: The Best Antidote to Bullying [Webinar]. In Retrieved from



Author: Maureen Schlosser

Author: Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades and Social and Emotional Learning for Picture Book Readers published by ALA Editions
Skillshare Teacher:

Categories: Blog Topics, Community/Teacher Collaboration, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models

Tags: , , , , ,

2 replies

  1. Thank you for sharing your relevant and timely ideas about programs that will help children develop empathy. Another good resource for teaching students about feelings is the Ruler Program developed by Yale University .

  2. Thank you for taking the time to add the RULER Program resource, Cathy! I appreciated reading about it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.