Showing Empathy Through Real-Life Play
Over the course of the past few weeks, the infants have had a growing interest and fascination with our baby dolls and taking care of them! This interest began when we had set out a provocation of the baby dolls having a picnic in our kitchen center. The infants then fed the babies the pretend food and placed the teacups over the babies faces to let them have a drink! The infants continued this play for the next few following days.
After having a discussion about this type of play during a team meeting, we decided to dress the baby dolls in diapers, clothes and bibs to replicate what the infants see in their day to day experiences. The infants were THRILLED! While the infants played with the baby dolls, it showed us as educators how much our actions and words make an impact on their growing minds. While observing the children’s play, we watched the infants rock the baby dolls in their arms, check the baby dolls diaper, and feed the baby its “milk” using a teacup before laying it down to sleep. We decided to extend this experience even more by adding empty bottles into the classroom to see what the children did.
L immediately took the bottle and placed it in the gap of the baby doll's mouth. She giggled with excitement as she rocked her baby in her arms. Afterwards, L turned the baby away from her body and began tapping her hand against the baby’s back to show us that she was burping the baby. We later asked L’s family if she has had any previous play experiences at home with baby dolls. They expressed that L does not have a baby doll at home and that her play is a direct example of what she has seen us do within the classroom! This was incredible to hear based on how much knowledge and skill she has shown us within the classroom, which in turn was a direct correlation of the work that we do as educators.
By exposing the infants to real-life play with the baby dolls, it allows the infants to build empathy for others, to build role-playing skills and self-help skills, as well as further developing their social skills, emotional skills, and language skills. Since the infants began this type of play, we have noticed a massive change in the way that they empathize with one another. This is shown by finding a peer's water bottle and giving it to them, passing an upset child their stuffed animal from home, or by giving a big hug to their peer when they are excited to see them!
Carly Baratta RECE, Miranda Lange RECE, Emily Merenda RECE