An important social skill is being able to look beyond one’s own viewpoint and consider another’s.

How are they feeling?
What are they thinking?
What impact am I having upon them?

Teaching perspective-taking to younger children can be challenging. Many researchers have stated that conceptual thinking develops earliest by age 7-8. However, evidence of conceptual awareness has more recently been revealed in preschoolers and as early as the ages of 2-3.

Children who cannot take the perspectives of others may be viewed as having “behaviour problems”, “inconsiderate”, or “self-centred”. These children may focus on seeking personal fulfilment rather than what is best for other children or the group.
So how do we teach children to take others’ perspectives and improve their perspective-taking abilities?

1. Storybooks

Read storybooks that teach social skills and discuss the character’s feelings at different points in the book. Fairy tales can be a good way to start because the characters are often well-known to children.

2. Teaching emotional literacy

Being able to identify emotions is a valuable part of our children’s social skills. When another child is upset, point out how he is feeling and why. If they are having difficulties identifying the emotion in the child, break it down into steps:

  • what do they see and hear?
  • What background knowledge do they have? This would include past experiences they have had, especially ones that left an emotional imprint upon them.
  • How does their face look?
  • How does their voice sound?

3. Cartoon strips and thought bubbles

Imagine different social scenarios and draw them out as your own cartoon strips. These imaginary scenarios can provide opportunities for children to consider how others feel during a conflict. Use thought bubbles to depict the emotions and thoughts of the people involved in the conflict, and then share them with your child.

4. Pretend play

Playing a pretend role allows children to experience what it is like to be someone else. Narrate the perspectives of other children for your student during play, “John looked sad when you took his toy,” and the positive emotions too: “Jane smiled when you shared your blocks. She seems happy.”