Valentine’s Day for some is simply viewed as a marketing opportunity for card and flower companies and for others it is viewed as an opportunity for some romance with dining out and gift giving! Whichever way you view the celebration of love, it cannot be denied that it is a great opportunity to teach young children about love – through empathy, friendship and kindness. Helping our young children to understand the concept of empathy is very important as it gives them an idea of how someone else is feeling in a certain situation and how they should respond. At a young age it can be difficult to grasp the concept of empathy when children can think that the world is all about themselves and the words ‘me’, and ‘mine’, are high on their vocabulary list! However, there are many ways to nurture empathy in young children;
- Empathise with the children when the opportunity arises. For example, ‘I understand that you are sad right now and I will stay with you until you need me to’. When you empathise with the children it validates that it is OK for them to feel like that.
- Encourage the child to communicate how they are feeling as this will help them to learn how to respond when others are expressing themselves. For example, ‘Oh no your toy fell and broke how does that make you feel?’, The answer may be ‘I am really sad about my toy falling and breaking’ and again encourages children to know how to respond to others in a similar situation.
- Ask the children to see things from other people’s perspective. For example, if they see someone fall ask ‘how do you think Adam is feeling right now?’. ‘How would you feel if you fell?’.
Let the love and friendships grow
Young children want friends but at a young age they don’t always know how to treat them. Promoting healthy ideas around friendship from a young age is key so that children have a positive outlook on how friendships should be.
- Model friendly and helpful behaviour by showing the children appropriate interactions with others in the classroom. If you have a job to do in the class, for example, if you need to move some toys from one box to another – ask one of the children to help. You may easily manage this yourself but why not use the opportunity to show children how to ask a friend for help.
- Encourage the children to play together, to share with each other and if assigning classroom jobs put them in pairs to encourage working together
- Focus on the characteristics that make a good friend and discuss this with the children at circle time. Ask questions such as ‘What makes a good friend?’ and ‘How does your friend make you happy?’.
Love is all around – it doesn’t cost anything to be kind!
Kindness is one of the qualities in life that can have a much bigger impact on others that we may not even realise. A simple smile or hello can cheer someone’s day up and you may never even know! Being kind is how we hope children will continue to be as adults and as a learned behaviour we can start teaching it from a very young age.
- Model being kind in your classroom as the children will copy what they see you doing
- Let the children smile and say hello to visitors to the class. Having a friendly face is a small but very impactful way to be.
- There are many activities to encourage kindness including the very popular ‘Random Acts of Kindness’, where the children do something nice for someone else within the class. This activity can be extended and encouraged to do at home with family, friends, neighbours and groups within the community.
If you are looking for activities underpinned by the Aistear Framework on how to introduce love into your classroom, The Early Years Shop has a wonderful curriculum plan available on the shop with over 25 activities included covering the theme of St.Valentine’s Day (Who is St Valentine, facts about Valentine’s Day and the meaning of the colour red in Valentines Day) as well as a number of activities on love, kindness, friendship and appreciation. You can purchase the St. Valentine’s Day Curriculum plan here. If you are a member of The Early Years Resource Factory you can log in and access this product as part of your membership. If you wish to become a member you can join here.