Theory of mind begins to develop around the age of three. You’ll know it’s happening when your preschooler begins to tell small fibs. This isn’t possible before he can recognize you don’t know what happened while you weren’t in the room. As theory of mind develops, your preschooler begins to understand that you can’t be aware of what you don’t see. Of course early on they fail to take into account that incriminating evidence such as an empty chocolate wrapper may provide you with clues.
We know that reading expands our children’s imaginations and vocabularies while enabling us to connect with them. Supporting them in perspective taking is another great reason to read to our children often. As we read a story, we can ask our children to begin to notice the facial expressions and body language of characters. We can also invite them to step into the shoes of a particular character by asking, “what would you do if someone did that to you?” and “what do you think that character if feeling right now?” Such questions can lead to meaningful disussions in which you recognize the capacity for caring that young children possess. Meawhile, they will be learning emotional intelligence and empathy.
Here’s a list of some of our favorite thought-provoking books. For more, you can check out one of my very first blog posts.
1. The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss
2. Am I Half Giraffe? by Dr. Jungmiwha Bullock and Christopher Matthews
A young girl named Nicole who is half giraffe and half lion doesn't quite feel like she fits in with either her lion or giraffe friends. They don't seem to understand her, and she feels different as a result. Her classmates tease her for how she looks, and she is left with hurt feelings and confusion about her identity. A multilingual book, the story is told in English, French, Spanish, Korean, and Afrikaans.
3. Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Pena and Christian Robinson
4. The Dog Who Had Kittens by Polly M. Robertus and Janet Stevens
Baxter the Basset Hound is neglected after the family cat, Eloise, has kittens. Baxter is sad until he meets the kittens, which whom he quickly becomes smitten. He acts as a nanny, lovingly caring for the kittens until the day he finds they have suddenly been rehomed. An unlikely friendship between Baxter and Eloise develops as they adjust to life without the beloved kittens.
5. Amos and Boris by William Steig
6. The Three Questions by Jon J Muth
Based on a story by Leo Tolstoy, this beautiful book tells the story of a young boy named Nikolai who sets out to discover the answers to three questions: When is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? and What is the right thing to do? Nikolai eventually discovers he knew the answers to his questions all along.