Children who learn the skill of perspective taking—seeing the world through someone else's eyes—have an easier and more satisfying experience in kindergarten and beyond. They are less likely to get into conflicts with each other, with teachers, and with all the different people in their lives. They are more likely to resolve conflicts that do arise, because they are able to imagine and respect other people's point of view.
Teaching children to be with others is as important as teaching them independence. Some Museum exhibits, like the Creek (part of Outdoor Adventure), the Dig Pit, and Theater offer rich opportunities for children to collaborate and work through differences. When disagreements arise, adults may support perspective taking with questions like: "Why do you think Natalie wants that truck?" Make your child aware of the effect of his or her behavior on another person. This may involve pointing out the direct consequences of the child’s behavior on someone else or pointing out feelings. Children are more likely to listen to others and be more considerate if parents used this kind of “other-oriented” discipline.
If your child gets upset during a visit to the Museum—or anywhere—you can help them develop perspective taking by practicing it yourself. Help your child feel heard by repeating back their words, asking questions, and letting them know you've been there.
Give children opportunities to pretend. Watch any group of children who are pretending and you will see them experiment with how others think and feel. They are “trying on” the perspectives of others and actively trying to figure out what’s going on in other people’s minds. You'll see plenty of this in Theater, but also at the Pet Hospital, the Grasshopper Grocery, and everywhere else in the Museum!
**Perspective Taking is one of the Seven Essential Life Skills described by Ellen Galinsky in her book, Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs (2010), available in the Museum Store. We have also created a brief handbook to provide information for you to explore at home.