I don’t know about you, but when I think of summer, I think of blockbuster films. I’m instantly transported back to warm summer nights at the drive-in, sitting under the stars and watching epic stories unfold. As a child, it felt like I could be and do just about anything as I watched those fantastic characters dance across the screen.
As we discussed in an earlier blog, while filled with many wonderful things, summertime can also be filled with bullying and unkindness. Even during the summer months, it is important to continue working on building kindness and empathy. This doesn’t mean fun has to take a backseat, though! There are plenty of ways to build social/emotional skills while enjoying all your favorite summertime activities—including going to the movies!
One fun new movie that recently hit theaters is an animated film called The Secret Life of Pets. In this movie, we humans are given a rare glimpse into what our pets think and do when we aren’t around. Children get to see how their animals might feel when they get left at home and how they might react when placed in a difficult scenario, providing the perfect opportunity to begin a conversation about empathy and the importance of considering the thoughts and opinions of others.
Inspired by the movie, I decided to create another movie-based empathy-building activity called:
The Secret Life Of…
In The Secret Life of Pets, we get to look at life through the eyes of our pets. This activity takes it one step further and allows children to step into the shoes of any character they like best!
Step 1: Choose a character
Have your child pick a character from a book or movie. This can be any character, however, it works best if children choose someone they have seen or read about recently.
Step 3: Tell the story
Keeping in mind the details outlined in the previous step, write out the character’s backstory using the first person perspective. The story should include details from the movie or book, but also fill in gaps that were not included in these tales. When writing the story, children should be sure to include how their character feels about the things that happen to him or her and why he or she chose to do certain things. For younger children, you may pick specific scenes or events for them to focus in on while older children may be given more free reign to explore character’s story and choices.
Again, you may get as creative as you like with this step. Stories may be illustrated, acted out, told completely in Tweets, or recorded in a diary!
Step 4: Continue the story
Create several different scenarios, with everything from bullying scenarios to everyday classroom situations, or even extending a scene from the character’s movie or book. How would your child’s character respond and why? What thoughts would run through their head? How would they feel?
As your children imagine their character’s responses, they are practicing, not only how to respond to different situations, but also putting themselves into the shoes of others.
Have conversations about why your children’s characters would respond the way they do. Ask if this is different than how they themselves would respond. Open up about how you would respond, as well. By the end of the activity, your children will have experienced at least three different thought processes, reactions, and responses to the exact same scenario.
So there you have it! A fun, simple little lesson in empathy that your children will think is just playtime! And really, aren’t learning and playing the same things?!
Would you try this activity at home? Which character would you choose? Let us know in the comments!
This is A. Blob is a masterfully illustrated picture book suitable for children ages 4-8. Written by Lori Kefalos, author of several animated shorts, including “Who’s that Knocking,” “Chug,” and “Croc, Pots and Wildebeests,” which was nominated for Best Independent Short Short, Ages 5-8, at the 2009 Kid’s First Film Festival and for best short at The Los Angeles Women’s International Film Festival, This is A. Blob is the first of a series following this bully.
This first installment follows the antics of A. Blob, a slimy, purple, blob-like creature who wreaks havoc on the elementary school playground with its bullying ways. As the story progresses, however, readers learn that A. Blob may have more than meets the eye.
Along with its powerful illustrations and rhymed verse for early readers, this story invites children to put themselves in the shoes of another. The book encourages readers to consider why bullies behave the way they do – and start to consider what can be done to help.
About Laughing Leopard Press
Hello! We are Laughing Leopard Press, an independent book publisher from Akron, Ohio. At Laughing Leopard Press, we’re interested in publishing works that contribute to our understanding of this wonderful world. Through this blog, we hope to add to that understanding with commentary on life, literature, and a few things in between. We hope you enjoy the blog and take some time to talk with us in the comments or on our social media sites. Happy reading!
This is A. Blob by L. A Kefalos. $14.95
$1.00 is donated to charity for each book sold on this site--half to St. Jude's and the other half to PetFix Northeast Ohio.