As the new year begins in earnest, I’m excited about the possibilities for 2017. Our winter classes are starting up, and we’re also looking forward to spring break and summer camps. Every time I teach, I’m reminded of possibility and potential awesomeness. Why? Because the kiddos bring all of that and more. They inspire us with their creativity and their kindness. This week, two girls ran into my Act It Out classroom, giggling and playing like they’d known each other for years. Sisters or best friends? Nope! They’d met two minutes earlier. I thought: adults can learn so much from kiddos.
Photo credit: CARE Actor students taking a class with our founder, Pooja Chawla
How’s 2017 going for you? Have you made any resolutions? Are you tackling a new challenge? Here at CARE Actor, our primary goal is to awaken kids’ creativity and, in the process, help them become their best selves. We’re always striving to do more. What’s new with us in 2017? Each month we’ll focus on a different value in classes and highlight it on this blog.
January’s value is EMPATHY, defined by Merriam’s Webster’s kids dictionary as “being aware of and sharing another person's feelings, experiences, and emotions.” Since Martin Luther King Day is right around the corner, empathy is especially relevant this month! Looking for a concrete way to celebrate kindness with your kids? Check out this great list of Martin Luther King Day activities in the DC area for Monday, January 16.
I know empathy can seem like a hard vocab word, and a heavy concept to introduce to kids. But we’re actually having a ton of fun! It’s not about vocab: it’s about slowing down, listening to others, and being aware. For us, it’s a cool challenge to find fun, heart-centered activities to share with you. Read on for three such activities . . .
Mirror Mirror on my friend
When thinking about how other people might be feeling, try this classic acting exercise at home. It’s called “Mirror.” You don’t need any supplies other than your bodies!
Photo credit: CARE Actor Family Improv class
Mirror Improv Game Directions
“You are very much like me,” says the ant.
One book we’re reading in classes this winter is Hey, Little Ant, by Phillip and Hannah Hoose (a father and daughter creative team). It started out as a song that Hannah and her dad wrote when she was just nine years old! You can listen to Phillip and Hannah sing the song here.
Photo credit: Amazon.com
On the surface, Hey, Little Ant is a book about whether a kid should squish an ant. But if you pay closer attention, it’s a book about compassion and empathy because it encourages kids to think about others’ feelings and even concepts like bullying, when the ant explains its point of view to the curious kid. “But you are a giant and giants can’t know how it feels to be an ant," says this eloquent insect. "Come down close. I think you’ll see that you are very much like me.” Too often those who really need our help can't ask for it, or are not listened to. This book is wonderful reminder to slow down and listen.
What are they feeling?
Since it’s so cold out, you’re probably spending extra time inside, reading books, or going to movies and plays. All this time with fictional characters gives us a great chance to talk about feelings. What are those characters feeling or thinking about? And why? Could a character be mad and sad at the same time? What about feeling several emotions at once? You can also point out places where characters are acting with empathy (or without it). Is it a big gesture, or are the moments of empathy small and simple?
If you want more ideas for helping kids be kinder in real life, check out this great article from the Washington Post.
So, what do you think? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below! Have you found ways to help kiddos be more aware and more empathetic? We’re listening! And Happy New Year!