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Home Empathy Dolls

JOYK´s dolls are created by Britt-Marie Egedius-Jakobsson, a Swedish special teacher, family therapist and designer of the beloved empathy dolls. There is some information on the JOYK website and they are available to buy in the UK from Asco Educational.

Overview

The Empathy Dolls are used as resource to develop emotional well being, empathy and understanding in very young children. The Empathy Dolls are introduced to the children as a real child, with a name and some background information. Parents and practitioners are encouraged to include the Empathy Doll in activities and to treat the Empathy Doll as a ‘real child’ at all opportunities.

The Empathy Doll training session offered by Stonegate Training Consultancies is a 2½ hour session exploring the use of this powerful resource in every day practice. However, many people have expressed a wish for a little web-based information, so below are some examples of how the dolls can be used in everyday practice. Also on the Ella’s Blog part of the web-site are photographs with labels explaining how the Empathy Dolls can be used.

Let us imagine a setting that has two Empathy Dolls, Ella in the room with the 3 and 4 year olds, and Rio in the room with the two year olds:

Supporting Behaviour

Jonny is four years old and currently going through a phase of flooding the bathrooms. Despite all your best efforts, Jonny still insists on turning on all the taps at every opportunity. The resulting floods are causing children to have wet feet and shoes, slip on the wet floor and staff having to spend many hours mopping up a sopping floor.

The Empathy Doll can be used as a way to support more acceptable standards of behaviour. Rather than continuously berating Jonny for the water all over the floor, a sensitive practitioner would use a circle time or group time to explain to all the children that Ella is sad and unhappy as every time Ella uses the bathroom her feet/shoes get wet. The practitioner would go on to say that it would be very helpful, and make Ella much happier if everyone remembered to turn off the taps.

In this way ‘Jonny’ has not been mentioned, therefore the child does not feel labelled or victimised, the other children do not then blame or ostracise Jonny and if the message about helping Ella to feel happy is continuously reinforced, Jonny is likely to resist from flooding the bathroom. The practitioner can then support Jonny to explore his obsession with running water (which is likely to be a schema) in other, more productive, and less problematic ways.

Supporting Emotional Well-Being

Saskia is three and a half years old, normally a happy and busy little girl; she has become quiet and weepy over the last few days. Saskia’s Mummy and Daddy have just brought home Saskia’s new baby brother.

The Emapthy Doll can be used to support Saskia’s emotional well-being. A sensitive practitioner could sit with Saskia and explain that Ella is sad as the new baby cries at night time and wakes Ella up. Saskia may then talk to the practitioner and discuss why she is upset or may talk through Ella. For example, Saskia may say “Ella is really sad because her Mummy is busy with the new baby and doesn’t have time to play with the jigsaws”. This will give the practitioner an insight into why Saskia is upset as Saskia will be using her experiences to explain Ella’s sadness.

By using the Empathy Dolls in this way Saskia has not had to say “I want to play with the jigsaws with my Mummy”, but the practitioner can see this is the case. A sensitive practitioner can then support Saskia to deal with the very strong emotions associated at this age with a new baby.

Developing Friendships

Tomas is just two and a half years old, like most children of his age he struggles to share toys. If Tomas is playing with a toy and another child comes close to him, Tomas becomes very distressed, screams loudly and can eventually become so upset that he throws himself on the floor and sobs uncontrollably. The other children are frightened of Tomas and practitioners are concerned about his ability to make friends.

In this situation, the Empathy Doll can be used to develop friendships and reinforce acceptable behaviour. A sensitive practitioner would begin by sitting with Tomas and playing alongside him with an identical toy (let us imagine two trucks). The practitioner would imitate Tomas’s play, and then after a while introduce Rio and model sharing the practitioner’s truck with Rio. Once this was established the practitioner would take away one truck, and sit Rio next to Tomas, over time the practitioner would encourage Tomas to share his truck with Rio, before introducing Tomas into situations where he could share with other children. It may also be that in the first instance Tomas would need Rio alongside him in these new sharing experiences.

In this way, Tomas is supported to understand about sharing without placing him, or other children, in potentially difficult situations. By sharing initially with the Empathy Doll, Tomas can be supported to understand about turn taking, sharing and the beginnings of making friends.

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