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June 10, 2018
At the Glazer Children’s Museum, we recently welcomed Dr. Michele Borba, empathy expert and author of “Unselfie,” who gave a profound speech about the importance of empathetic children.
Why does empathy matter? Today’s world is rife with bullying, snark and subtweets. However, if we cultivate compassion in our littlest learners, they will form a more empathetic world. We’re all different, and the ability to share and understand the feelings of another has magical powers, especially for kids. When kids from different backgrounds, genders, races and abilities play together they are practicing key skills such as sharing, exploring and appreciating cultures, and selflessness instead of selfishness.
At the Glazer Children’s Museum, kids can try on different identities that give them new perspectives. In the hospital and vet clinic, kids care for patients who need their help. In the firehouse, they become first responders, sliding down the fire pole and racing to the rescue. In Publix, kids take turns playing the roles of shopper, cashier, baker or shelf stocker. They learn about other cultures in the Global Café, West African Drum Hut and Japanese Pagoda. Playing in these exhibits teaches kids to consider perspectives outside their own.
I keep a copy of “Unselfie” by my bedside and love Borba’s helpful, pragmatic approach to teaching empathy to kids. In the book, Borba reasons that empathy is the root of humanity and the foundation that helps our children become good, caring people, but it’s up to adults to nurture this skill. Borba suggests a few practical ways to cultivate children’s empathy.