what is empathy?

If you look up the word empathy in the dictionary it says:

'The act of understanding, being aware of, or sensitive to another persons feelings, thoughts and experiences.'

Empathy is when you put yourself 'IN SOMEBODY ELSE’S SHOES', as the saying goes.

Don't worry. you don’t actually have to stand in someone else’s shoes!

That might be tricky anyway- especially if they are still wearing them.

Instead, this is something that you do inside your head, you use your IMAGINATION to try and see life as they do.

why is empathy important?

There are lots and lots of reasons why empathy is important, but here are 3 that we really like:

1: Empathy helps you to be a better YOU

Imagine that you had a friend who knew exactly what you were thinking, what you were feeling and what you needed at any time.

How amazing a friend would they be?

Well when you are being empathetic that's what you are trying to do.

You won’t always get it right, but by trying to understand where somebody else is coming from and what they are going through, you end up being a great friend, brother sister, son or daughter.

2: Empathy helps you to solve problems

Imagine trying to do a really difficult jigsaw that has lots of pieces and you have no idea what the picture you are trying to make looks like.

It would be pretty tough, right?

It’s the same with people.

If you really want to help and solve problems, you can only do so if you know and understand what the problem truly looks and feels like.

Solving problems is an extremely important skill for you to have,  and empathy will really help you to see what the picture looks like, so you can put the jigsaw together.

3: Empathy means that you get to FEEL PRETTY AWESOME

When you really try to understand other people, it makes you a better brother, sister, child or friend.

This makes you feel like a pretty good human being!

a quiz

OK, that’s enough reading for now, let’s have a bit of QUIZ fun shall we?

We hope that you have been paying attention.


activity 1: musical dinner chairs

Now it's time to practice your EMPATHY in the real world with 3 activities.

First up, this is a fun activity to do while you are eating a family dinner.

Instead of sitting in your usual seat, you are all going to swap seats.

Not like these guys though, you need to stay in the same seat for the whole meal.

During the meal, you each have to pretend to be the person whose chair you are sitting in.

Everybody takes a turn to imagine and then explain to the table how the day went for the person whose chair they are sitting in.

Once that person has finished, the person whose normally sits in the chair tells everyone what actually happened to them that day.

Once they have finished, you move onto the next person until everybody has had a turn.


  • What did that person do today?
  • How did they feel during their day?
  • What different sorts of emotions did they have?
  • What were they thinking about?

activity 2: do something nice

Now for your second activity.


It can be a friend, a family member, teacher, neighbour… anyone.

As we are going to show our empathy by doing something nice for this person, it might be really cool to choose someone who is having a tricky time- but you can choose anyone.

Just like with the chairs, you are going to imagine what that person is going through at this particular moment:

  • What’s happening in their life?
  • How are they feeling about it?
  • How are they coping?
  • What might they need or really appreciate?

And then you are going to think of something that you can do that will help them to feel better.

Here are some suggestions below, but please feel free to come up with your own.

activity 3: read a story

Science tells us that this is a fantastic way to improve your empathy skills.

When you read your brain has to imagine what it’s like to be the characters you are reading about.

So, your 3rd activity is to read a book before bedtime and really try and imagine what it's like to be one of the characters.

See if you can put yourself in their shoes: what are they thinking, what are they feeling?

Practice your empathy each time you read!