Cultivating Kindness - DuPage Children's Museum

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Cultivating Kindness

November 17, 2016

Anyone who works with or has young children knows that they are driven by an innate need to understand how the world operates. Noticing and being interested in differences is one manifestation of this drive to learn. These differences can pertain to objects and surroundings but also to people from a physical standpoint and emotional as well.

As of late, a topic that has been at the forefront of my mind is that of teaching kindness, empathy, and an appreciation for individual differences. The research regarding child development is clear that the experiences a child has in the early years of their life are formative and lay the foundation for later development. This holds true as much for social-emotional development as it does for cognitive development. These early childhood interactions and experiences are the building blocks for developing the skills necessary to form healthy friendships as well as prevent aggressive behaviors that could later manifest as bullying.

The settings that young children are immersed in, ranging from daycare to library story times, and even informal learning environments such as DCM, are often a child’s first context outside of the home where they have opportunities to learn to relate to and interact with their peers. I have discussed in depth here, on more than one occasion, the intentionality of the exhibit and environmental design. When the Museum is designing experiences (both programmatic and exhibit), we are not only thinking of ways to support learning of things that are content specific but also how best to support growth and development from a holistic perspective which includes social-emotional development.

One particularly successful example is our Pyramid Bench (see photo below). Prior to the re-design of the Creativity Connections Neighborhood we had multiple table top experiences that were suitable for 1-2 children playing at a time. One of these experiences was a small scale version of the Pyramid Bench. The Pyramid Bench grew from our desire to present children with a large body experience that would facilitate engaging with other children while also supporting cognitive development. DCM presents parents with an excellent setting to support children as they interact with others and help children learn to problem solve social situations and constructively express their feelings which has the potential to prevent future bullying. No one wants to think that their child but it is our responsibility to cultivate kindness. Here are some ways to support your child’s social and emotional development.

How to support your children from

    1. Social problem-solving skills:
      • Find concrete ways to teach children the skills they need to solve problems.
      • Teach social problem-solving skills directly related to various forms of bullying—verbal, physical, and indirect.
      • Help children understand and deal with their feelings.
      • Encourage impulse control and self-calming.
      • Help children practice listening skills.</li.
      • Practice coming up with solutions, anticipating consequences, and evaluating the harmfulness of violent solutions.
      • Help children understand that everyone is different and that this is something to be respected, not made fun of or simply tolerated.
    2. Empathy skills:
      • Encourage children to label their own feelings and tell each other how they feel about bullying.
      • Discuss how children who are bullied might feel.
      • Explain that despite differences between people, everyone experiences certain basic feelings.
      • Remind children how they felt in situations like those faced by others in distress.
        Model empathy by talking about how you identify another’s distress and think of ways to help.
    3. Assertiveness skills
      • Teach children to:
        • Ask for and offer things to each other in a polite and open-ended way.
          Use assertiveness skills to avoid submitting to bullying tactics, bossiness, or discriminatory acts.
        • Ignore routine provocative peer behaviors.
        • Use assertiveness skills to meet their goals. Teach these skills to both boys and girls.


I would love to hear your experiences on this topic. Also, check back next week for a continuation on this topic by fostering conversations through children’s literature.