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Episode 140: Daniel Learns about Empathy/Empathy at School

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Category: Current Season

Daniel Learns about Empathy– Using their play toolkits, Daniel and O the Owl are pretending to make “repairs” to Daniel’s playhouse. Daniel is having lots of fun hammering loudly, but it’s upsetting O, who would rather do something quieter. Daniel loves hammering so much that it’s hard for him to see why it upsets O. Mom helps Daniel think about how O is feeling. He comes to realize that they can both have fun as quiet handymen!

Empathy at School– Chrissie and Daniel are playing “doctor” at school today, but when Chrissie loses her special bracelet, she doesn’t feel like playing anymore. Daniel has trouble understanding why. Teacher Harriet helps him understand how Chrissie may be feeling. Daniel remembers how worried he was when he thought Tiger was lost, and decides to stop playing and help find the bracelet.

Learning Goals

The learning goal of this episode is to help children develop caring attitudes toward others.

The strategy song of this episode is: Think about how someone else is feeling.

Fred Rogers Timeless Wisdom

“Caring grows little by little as children develop the ability to see the world through other people’s eyes. That’s the foundation for empathy, the capacity to appreciate how others might feel.”- Fred Rogers Read More on Helping Young Children Develop Empathy

Winter Holidays

What is it about the winter holidays that stimulate so much emotion?

Here are some words of wisdom from Fred Rogers:


The winter holidays recall feelings of warmth, generosity, light, and love. Almost every family has some traditions for the winter holidays. Often, those traditions awaken both our senses and our memories. When we think about the holidays, many of us quickly think about food. For most of us, food is tied to nurturance and love, to good tastes and good feelings of satisfaction.

When most of us were little, warmth was experienced as pleasurable. The winter holidays, for many of us, bring sharp contrasts between warm hearths, warm hugs, warm laps, and the coldness of the season.

The winter also brings strong contrasts between darkness and light. The lighting of candles at Hanukkah drives away the darkness. Most of us recall the twinkling lights of Christmas, from candles in church to sparkling lights outside of houses and shopping malls.

Holiday songs and carols often bring strong feeling of times past as well. Long before we could understand the words or hum the tunes, we likely experienced the closeness and security that accompanied the warmth of being cuddled by our parents.

Most people say it’s their family traditions that make the days special for them. Traditions can be like anchors that help us feel more secure and stable.  They can be especially important when families feel the frenzy that sometimes comes with the holidays. Some traditions from the past may not work well for children today. So, families tend to develop their own traditions. We may be surprised at how little it takes to make a day feel really special.

High Expectations

Winter holidays can bring with them high expectations. Some adults create so much excitement about holidays that children come to think of them as the most special days of the year. Adults can get caught up in wanting to create the “perfect day.” They feel the pressure from the media as well. The loudest message of the season, shouted from millions of television sets, newspapers, and magazines, seems to be “To spend more is to love more and to be more dearly loved.” What a seductive message, especially for parents! But of course, that’s not true or realistic.

Nonetheless, the desire to try to make the holiday a perfect day, can easily lead to disappointment for children and adults. It’s only natural that such heightened anticipation might lead to expectations that can never be met.

Even if expectations are met, it can be hard for a child to receive too much of anything—gifts, food, attention—at any one time. In fact, it can be just plain overwhelming for children to receive so much of everything. They may wonder. “How can I make up for all this? How can I ever say ‘thank you’ enough? How can I ever be good enough in return for all of this? There was so much confusion and so many presents, I can’t remember what I got.”

If expectations are not met, the day might bring tears and arguments leaving parents feeling, at the end of the day, that their children never appreciated any of it. “We did all this for you, and why aren’t you happy?” There’s a letdown that turns that “perfect” day into a big disappointment. Of course, no one wants to disappoint a child; however, an important part of being parents is helping our children cope with disappointment.

Children sometimes ask for gifts their parents can’t afford or don’t feel are appropriate. We can help children learn early on that there are limits to what people can have. Some parents have told their children, “We can’t buy everything you want. We don’t have enough money for all that. We need money for our home, food, clothes, and taking care of the other things that you need and we need.” If parents are willingly supportive, they can help a child face disappointment and grow from it. And coping with disappointment is a “gift” that they’ll be able to use all their lives.

Helpful Hints for the Winter Holidays:

  • Find some quiet time before the holidays to ask your child what traditions he or she has enjoyed over the years. They may be the ones you want to make sure to preserve.
  • Involve your child in the preholiday activities by working together to make name cards for the family meal, making cookies, creating holiday cards, or setting up the candles. Participating gives children an important sense of belonging.
  • Before going to another home for a family gathering for the holidays, let your child know what to expect. Talk about what you know about the house, your memories of being there (if you’ve been there as a child), and the guests who might be there.
  • Commotion and crowds can be over-stimulating for children and make it harder for them to control their impulses. Try to be aware of when your childbegins to be stressed and go to a quiet place with your child to lie down for a while, to look at a book, or to take a walk. Once children become over-stimulated, exhausted, fretful, or just plain out of control, it’s harder for them to settle down. They need to feel confident that their parents will help them get back into control.

Fred’s Favorite Gift Suggestions

The gift of who you are: “The greatest gift you ever give is your honest self.” If you like to make things out of wood, or sew, or dance, or style people’s hair, or dream up stories and act them out, or play the trumpet, or jump rope, whatever you really love to do, and you love that in front of children, that’s going to be a far more important gift than anything you could ever give them wrapped up in a box with ribbons. And what’s more: the last thing in the world you have to be is perfect at it. It’s the spirit that gives that kind of gift its wings.”

The gift of caring: We’re all on a journey—each one of us. And if we can be sensitive to the person who happens to be our ‘neighbor,’ that, to me, is the greatest challenge as well as the greatest pleasure. Because if you’re trusted, the people will allow you to share their inner garden—what greater gift!”

The gift of small things:Some of the best things to celebrate are the small moments that happen in everyday life, like seeing someone help another person, learning something new, or noticing a beautiful sunset, a pretty flower, or a flight of birds. When we can take the time in the midst of our busy world to celebrate things like that, we’re nourishing our children and ourselves. In easy times and in tough times, what seems to matter most is the way we show those nearest us that we’ve been listening to their needs to their joys, and to their challenges.”

A closing quote from Fred Rogers:

“How I wish that all children in this world could have at least one person who could embrace them and encourage them…somebody who would let them know that the outsides of people are insignificant compared with their inside to show them that no matter what, they’ll always heave somebody who believes in them.”

           Strategy Song from Daniel Tiger: Making something is one way to say “I love you.”

Daniel is Jealous: Daniel and Katerina are playing “airplane” with Grandpere. Daniel thinks Katerina is getting too much attention from Grandpere and starts to feel jealous. Daniel explains his feelings and is reassured that he is Grandpere’s one and only Daniel.

Jealousy at the Treehouse: Daniel and Katerina are at O the Owl’s house today, playing with his new science kit. Daniel and Katerina feel jealous of O because they want science tools just like his. After talking about their feelings, the children realize how they can all enjoy O’s special science kit.

Learning Goals

The learning goal of this episode is to help children identify, express, and manage their feelings.

The strategy song of this episode is: When you feel jealous, talk about it.

Fred Rogers Timeless Wisdom

When we talk with children about their feelings of jealously, we let them know that ‘it’s all right to have those feelings. At the same time, we can assure them that they will always have a special place in our lives and no one can ever take away.”- Fred Rogers


Read More on Helping Children with Jealous Feelings

Language pays a key role in helping children deal with their feelings. Feelings are a part of being human. Of course, talking about feelings can be a challenge for people at any age, even more so, for young children who don’t use words well, especially when they are upset. Sometimes feelings can be a jumble inside and are hard to sort out or name. That can be one of the times when children find it most difficult to tell us how they feel.

We need to encourage children to talk about their feelings. Being able to use words to describe what they are feeling gives children power over their feelings. Giving words to feelings can make them become a lot less overwhelming or upsetting or scary.

When children can talk about their feelings with you, they can learn that their feelings are natural and normal, and that others feelings, too. Give your child the words to use to express how they feel—“I’m sad,” “I feeling jealous,” “I’m tired,” and “I’m mad.” When children can begin to express themselves with words, they are less likely to bite, hit, kick or use some other disruptive behavior.

Daniel Gets a Cold: It’s Prince Wednesday’s birthday party at school today! But Daniel is not feeling very well. He really does not want to miss the party, but learns that when you’re sick, rest is best.

Mom Tiger is Sick: It’s a busy day at Jungle Beach, and every one is working on something. Mom Tiger is finishing up invitations for Fruit Picking Day, when she starts sneezing. She’s not feeling very well. Luckily, Dad and Daniel help with the invitations so Mom Tiger can get some much needed rest!

Learning Goals

The learning goal of this episode is helping children with self-management skills.

The strategy song of this episode is: When you’re sick, rest is better.

Fred Rogers Timeless Wisdom

“Sometimes children need our help to find a balance between playing and resting, especially when they aren’t feeling well.”- Fred Rogers


Duckling Goes Home: Today at school, the kids learn that Ducky has grown too big for their classroom, and it’s time to take him back to the farm. Daniel and Miss Elaina are quite upset about the news. The children cope with their sadness in different ways, and they feel better –little by little.

Daniel Feels Left Out: On their way home from the neighborhood grocery store, Dad and Daniel stop by the tree house. O the Owl and Katerina Kittycat have been playing together all day, and are even having dinner together! Daniel feels left out. Mom and Dad Tiger help Daniel cope with his sad feelings, and he feels better-little by little.

Learning Goals

The learning goal of this episode is help children identify feelings and learn ways to manage them.

The strategy song of this episode is: It’s ok to feel sad sometimes, little by little you’ll feel better.

Fred Rogers Timeless Wisdom

“Using words gives children power over their feelings so they can work on controlling them, instead of feeling controlled by their feelings. Using words helps children separate their feelings from actions.” – Fred Rogers

Read More on Helping Children with Sad Feelings

Daniel Gets Frustrated: Daniel is playing at home with Mom Tiger today, but nothing seems to be going his way. He can’t do what he wants to do, and this makes him feel frustrated! With help from Mom Tiger, Daniel learns how to manage his frustration, and thinks of new ways to play.

Frustration at School: Daniel and his friends are playing ‘restaurant’ at school today. Daniel feels frustrated when he can’t find what he is looking for. Luckily, he learns to cope with his frustration by taking a step back and asking for help and soon dinner is served!

Learning Goals
The learning goal of this episode is
The strategy song of this episode is: When you’re frustrated, take a step back, and ask for help.

Fred Rogers Timeless Wisdom
“I’ve come to believe that, like so many aspects of our character, our attitude toward the smaller disappointments and frustrations of life depends a great deal on the attitudes of the grownups we loved when we were very young.”- Fred Rogers

Read More on N

Line Leader Daniel: Today at school, the children are getting new classroom jobs, and Daniel really wants to be ‘line leader’! When he doesn’t get the job he wanted, Daniel is disappointed. Soon he learns that all of the jobs are important to keep the classroom running smoothly. 

Neighborhood Jobs: Daniel and Mom Tiger are visiting the library today! Unfortunately, X the Owl isn’t feeling very well, so he can’t do his job. Daniel learns the importance of all the neighborhood jobs and offers to fill in as librarian for the day!

Learning Goals
The learning goal of this episode is to develop responsibility and cooperation.

The strategy song of this episode is: Everyone’s job is important, we all help in different ways.

Fred Rogers Timeless Wisdom
Children feel nourished when someone they love takes care of them by helping them. But it is just as nourishing for children to know that they can be helpful to others as well.”        — Fred Rogers

Read more on Helping with Everyday Chores.

Daniel’s New Friend: Daniel and Miss Elaina are at Prince Wednesday’s castle for a royal play date, and meet his cousin Chrissie. As they play “knights,” they discover that, although Chrissie needs some help walking, they are the same in many ways. 

Same and Different: While Daniel is playing dress up with his friends at school, he feels different when he realizes that not everyone has a tail like him. He learns that everyone has differences, but that these are the things that make us unique. 

Learning Goals
The learning goal of this episode is to help children see and appreciate the similarities and differences among people.

The strategy song of this episode is: In some ways we are different, in so many ways we are the same.

Fred Rogers Timeless Wisdom
As different as we are from one another, as unique as each one of us is, we are much more the same that we are different.  That may be the most essential message of all, as we help our children grow toward being caring, compassionate, and charitable adults.” Fred Rogers 

Read more on Helping Children See That Each Person Is Unique

A Snowy Day: It’s a snowy day in the Neighborhood, and Miss Elaina is coming over to play! Mom Tiger helps Daniel change out of his pajamas into clothes that will keep him warm. When it’s time to go outside, Daniel learns how important it is to choose the appropriate clothes.

Tutu All the Time: Katerina is wearing her favorite sparkly tutu at school today! She likes to wear it all the time, even when she’s painting and playing “grizzly bear” with her friends. But she soon learns how important it is to choose the appropriate clothes for the things you want to do. 

Learning Goals
The learning goal of this episode is to help children think more carefully about the clothes they choose to wear.

The strategy song of this episode is: Think about what you’re going to do, then pick the clothes that are right for you. 

Fred Rogers Timeless Wisdom
During the preschool years, children may develop very specific ideas about what they will and will not wear. Naturally, those strong preferences will not always agree with what adults want them to wear. These times can be helpful opportunities to work together on understanding the notions of “choice” and “control.” ― Fred Rogers 

Read more on Giving Children Choices.

Neighbor Day
In this half-hour special Daniel learns that it feels good to be neighborly and that one kind act can lead to many. His first good deed starts a chain reaction of kindness all around the Neighborhood, resulting in the declaration of “Neighbor Day!” 

Learning Goals
The learning goal of this episode is to help children understand that doing something kind for others can make them feel good too.

The strategy song of this episode is: Do something nice for your neighbor, do something nice for your friend.

Fred Rogers Timeless Wisdom
“Imagine what our real neighborhoods would be like if each of us offered, as a matter of course, just one kind word to another person.  Sometimes, all it takes is one kind word to nourish another person.  Think of the ripple effect that can be created when we nourish someone.  One kind empathetic word has a wonderful way of turning into many.”  – Fred Rogers

 Read more on Encouraging Generosity and Gratitude

Produced by: Support from:
Fred Rogers Productions logo   Corporation for Public Broadcasting logo Rite Aid Foundation

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