'I gave my toddler "empathy lessons". Here's an honest recap.'

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As a first time mum I read *all* the books I needed to raise my child. 

Newborn sleep schedules? Got it. 

Introducing peanuts? No problem!

Daycare waitlists? I’m on them. 

But the really important things? Like raising decent human beings? Well, the books didn’t exactly cover that.

In the wild world of parenting in 2023, teaching empathy can seem like trying to nail jelly to a wall and the quest for raising compassionate kids can feel, well, really daunting.

So, armed with some optimism, I decided to try a week of empathy lessons with my spirited toddler. The journey was as enlightening as it was entertaining.

Role-playing with toys.

Image: Supplied.


Little kids, being tactile explorers, absorb their surroundings through touch, and LEGO® DUPLO® quickly emerged as the unsung hero in our week-long empathy experiment.

Our living room transformed into an empathy laboratory as we built our LEGO DUPLO 3in1 Family House, hit the LEGO DUPLO Dream Playground for some shared swings and slide action, and even had a cosy campfire in our LEGO DUPLO 3in1 Tree House.

Each set allowed her to explore the world she sees around her and use her imagination to role-play modern life, laying the groundwork for building empathy.

A parenting jackpot!

With diverse characters across the sets, from children to grandparents and animals, and even a guide dog, my toddler was able to grasp differences in appearance and behaviour.

She loved the animals especially, from feeding the cat to checking if the dog had its lead on securely, and became the self-proclaimed Dr. Doolittle of LEGO DUPLO. 

Recognising that each person has unique needs, we used the grandma from the LEGO DUPLO 3in1 Treehouse to talk about how important rest is after a day of activities. We said that after a lot of intense climbing and running across the wobbly bridge thirty times, she'd definitely need a chance to relax.

My toddler actioned this, grabbing some bricks to build a seat. “Sit down and rest grandma. You need to because you’re old."


Albeit we need to work on the delivery, but the intention was there!

She even noticed one character had hearing aids and we spoke about how that character needed help hearing, leading her to have other characters speak clearer and closer in proximity to that character during play.

I can see how exploring faces in the sets also helps develop kids' emotional self-awareness. We lined up characters, labelling their expressions and talking about what they were feeling.

She saw one boy who didn't have a big smile so she put him on the see-saw with a friend to “cheer him up”.

And after a big morning of playing, she decided that all the characters would be tired, so she stacked them all into the house (yes, even the six animals), and tucked them safely into bed. 

These sets really were the unexpected sidekick to nurturing empathy, one brick at a time.

Image: Supplied.


The art of "taking turns".

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve cried "SHARE!", or reminded my little one about waiting for their turn, I could retire right now. 

Determined to weave empathy lessons into our playtime, I organised a playdate where sharing was the star of the show.

The mission? 

Emphasise the golden rules of waiting patiently and being considerate of others.

Entering the abyss that is her toy room, we began the delicate dance of taking turns.

I had *the talk* about how her friends were here to play with her toys, and it wasn't a solo performance. With lots of enthusiastic nods and a chorus of “yes” when I asked if everyone was up for sharing the fun, we kicked off a playdate filled with the sweet sound of collaboration. 

Sure, it actually started with a *lot* of "No, that's mine!" and "I'm playing with that!", accompanied by a few tears and almost tantrums.

BUT, after a sprinkle of reassurance and a moment where my toddler generously handed over a toy that hadn't seen daylight in six months, I caught a glimpse of the subtle bloom of empathy.


It might have been a small victory but it felt like striking gold.

Your turn, Flick.

Image: Supplied.

For our next empathy lesson we recruited the help of our family dog, Flick. 

I’m sure Flick would have preferred to stay sleeping on her bed and not have sticky toddler hands all over her, but she rose to the task nonetheless as my toddler seamlessly transitioned into a caretaker role.

We started with giving the dog a good brush while understanding the importance of being gentle. 

At dinner time she gave her a scoop of biscuits and filled up her water bowl, telling her boldly to “come and eat NOW”. Again, delivery is... still in progress. And we made sure that the blankets on her bed were folded and ready for Flick to sleep. 


I was proud of how attentive she was to her needs and this hands-on experience encouraged a sense of responsibility and care for others.

Nurturing the plants.

This week also highlighted the broader impact of play on soft skills. Think: creativity, problem-solving, independence, confidence.

The LEGO DUPLO 3in1 TreeHouse set became the stage for teaching environmental empathy and understanding our magical ecosystem.

Building the treehouse wasn’t just about problem-solving and focusing on construction, it was a chance to chat about why trees are actually awesome, and why we should care about them.

Together, we 'watered' the plants with the watering can, cared for the garden, and discussed why it's important to nurture our surroundings.

Image: Supplied.


We shared stories about homes that animals have and why plants and trees matter for our world. 

And the simple act of nurturing a virtual garden laid the foundation for a broader conversation about respecting nature and the world we live in.

By turning playtime into a nature adventure I was able to subtly plant seeds of love for the environment. See what we did there?

So, what did we learn from empathy bootcamp?

As parents we all desperately want to build the right foundations for our kids. 

We want to nurture their soft skills and raise resilient, well-adjusted kids who care about the world around them. So when kids play, they're really stepping into different roles and scenarios, crafting a world where imagination rules, and they can get practice at being comfortable with the idea that everyone has feelings. 

As the week wrapped up, seeing a pint-sized heart grasp the empathy concept was worth its weight in gold.

Shop LEGO® DUPLO® sets online or in-store to help teach kids about the world around them.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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