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The Magic of Imaginative Play: Helping Kids Develop Empathy

What you will learn:

  • The development of empathy and ways to encourage your child to be more empathetic.
  • How the Curlimal family can be used to actively develop the skills associated with empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand other people’s feelings and see things from their point of view. People who demonstrate high levels of empathy are good listeners, they recognise that someone is feeling sad and they are generally caring in nature. 

The development of empathy in young children begins within the first year of their life and is something that evolves over time. We are not born empathetic but instead born with the ability to be empathetic. Like any social-emotional skill, it is something that needs to be nurtured and encouraged and time and patience must be given whilst your child learns these skills.

A child at the age of three might point and shout out ‘that lady has big ears mummy’ and they would likely be gently told to be quiet by their embarrassed parent and the comment ignored by the lady. However, if an adult said the same thing, this would probably be met with gasps of horror. The point is, that a child at the age of three is unlikely to have developed an understanding of how their actions impact another person and therefore are unlikely to understand how their comment would have made that lady feel.  As the child’s social-emotional skills evolve, with the right encouragement, they develop a ‘theory of mind’, where they begin to understand how another person might feel in any given situation and this generally occurs between the ages of 3 and 5.

So, what can you do as parents to help your child become more empathetic? Well, here at the Good Play Guide we have the perfect toy to help encourage the development of empathy in your child – Curlimals..! 

What are Curlimals?

The Curlimals are a choice of three interactive woodland creatures, Bibi Bunny, Higgle Hedgehog and Blue Badger and they will all entertain and delight your child. They move, talk, and respond to touch for a completely interactive experience. Pat their heads and they giggle and curl up. Each comes with its own individual voice that makes comments that your child will love. Through the language used and the movements of each character, your child is encouraged to look after their new woodland friend. Designed for both boys and girls aged between 3-5 years, it’s perfectly positioned to support your child in developing the fundamentals of empathy. 

How do Curlimals help to develop empathy?

When playing with the Curlimals characters, your child begins to learn how their interactions influence the experiences of others. When the woodland characters engage with your child, they will learn about doing things for others. For example, it may ask for tickles and once given, it will show signs of appreciation and happiness as a direct result of your child’s actions. By looking after their new woodland friend, it encourages the development of nurturing behaviours which are readily associated with the development of empathy. 

One of the foundations of empathy is imaginative play and Curlimals deliver on this in a big way. Your child can take their woodland friend on a range of different adventures, whether that be at home or out in the garden. They can listen to the cues given to them and engage in play. For example, if their Curlimal curls up to go to sleep, they can make a pretend bed for them so they are comfortable. Again, these are all actions where they are considering the feelings of others and are understanding appropriate behaviours to go with each scenario. 

The Curlimals family are different from other interactive soft toys. They are designed in a way to encourage your child to carry out empathy-inducing behaviours, so even a child at the beginning of their development journey will be able to understand and engage in play that will encourage the development of this vital social-emotional skill.   

How can I help enhance the benefits of the Curlimals?

Reinforcing the lessons learnt is an important part of helping your child process what they are learning and the Curlimal friends deliver an ideal platform in which to do this.  Talking to your child whilst they play with their new friend about their interactions, will help to reinforce the behaviour. When they do something nice, ask them about how their Curlimal may be feeling. For example, ‘How do you think Bibi Bunny feels after you have been so kind to him?’ This will really help your child to begin that journey of thinking about how their actions impact others. Use positive language such as ‘it’s lovely that you are being so kind to Bibi Bunny, he must feel really happy now’. Further, explore with your child about their own feelings. Do they feel good for making Bibi Bunny happy? How would they feel if Bibi Bunny was kind to them? By doing this, you are helping your child to make sense of their own emotions and connecting positive feelings with positive actions. 


The Curlimals are an ideal addition to any family who are wanting to encourage their children to develop a strong empathetic foundation. With three unique Curlimals to choose from, your hardest decision will be which one to buy first..!

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