Empathy is the ability to recognise or understand another’s state of mind or emotion. It is often characterised as the ability to “put oneself into another’s shoes” Empathy takes sympathy a stage further. If you have empathy for people, you can imagine and feel what they are feeling, even though you are not personally affected by their problems at that time, you take them on board as if they were your own. Personal life experiences helps to build this skill. To feel empathy you often have to have experienced that situation or emotion yourself. For example a child who has experienced the death of a pet can empathise with their classmate over that loss. A child who has not experienced the loss of a pet can sympathise with their classmate.

Developing empathy needs a child to look at something from their personal past experiences and to relate that to another person. To stand in their shoes and understand what that person is feeling and thinking. Of course children need to have a good emotional literacy. They need to be able to recognise, understand, label, express and regulate their emotions in order to be able to empathise with someone else and to understand what that person is feeling and thinking over a specific situation.

This game helps to develop the skill of empathy by using everyday situations and imagining what another person might be thinking and feeling.

Empathy game new


The game has many uses for emotional literacy too. The emotion fans can be used separately from the game. Monitoring a child’s emotions over time. It can be used to recognise facial expressions and develop emotional vocabulary. The cards can be used to develop an understanding of different emotions and a way of expressing those emotions.

Empathy game







How to play

Each child has a pair of ‘empathy glasses’, a ‘bingo board’, a ‘game piece’ and a ‘How is your friend feeling’ board.

Choose one child to go first. That child is given the feeling fan and has to choose one question card. Either you read out the card or the child can read the card loudly so that everyone can hear. They must think about how they would feel in that situation BUT they must keep it secret. They must choose one of the emotions on the feelings fan and hide it from the rest of the children.

All the other children must put on their empathy glasses and decide how their friend must feel. Ask the children to think of a time when they may have experienced this situation as it may help them decide on how their friend must feel. They choose one of the emotions on their board, and either draws the emotion or circles it depending on which board you are playing with.

When everyone has finished they must show the first player. He/she then reveals the emotion he/she has chosen from the feelings fan. If the others have chosen the same they get to move their game piece on their bingo board. There is lots of opportunity to discuss this emotion and if a child has not chosen the same emotion then discuss why they chose a different one. The next player then has the fan and reads the next question. Continue until one child reaches number six on their bingo board. They are the empathy superhero!

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