The preschool years (3-5) is such a big developmental period for the brain.
Kids are learning about self-concept, how they fit in socially, who they are as an individual (that they even are an individual), what roles they play. They’re learning about who they are based on the reactions and feedback from others. It’s a crucial time period that will help boost (or hinder) their emotional IQ and set them up for a strong foundation before they head off to their first years of elementary school.
It’s important to nourish this growth period in and to help make them kindergarten ready. And when I say “kindergarten ready” it’s in no way whatsoever related to academics. I make a face whenever someone mentions anything close to forcing kids to learn to read before kindergarten. I groan at the Crayola kits aimed at “preschool readiness”.
When I say “kindergarten readiness” what I mean is asking ourselves how well adjusted our child is with being left without us for hours? How do they adjust to a new environment? Can they balance, can they pinch stuff? Reading and writing begins at the core of the body and then moves outwards, to gross motor skills and finally, to fine motor skills. But a kid can’t learn to write if they can’t pinch or track things with their eyes. A kid can’t concentrate in school if they are worried about when they’ll be picked up.
So here are 5 activities to not only boost self confidence in your child, but also help them get kindergarten ready. And I’ve referenced two studies/articles at the end for more reading on this subject.
When a child has sensory integration issues they can take on unsupervised risky behavior, act clumsy, shy away from others for fear of being touched, or too fidgety to sit still. These symptoms of a possible sensory disorder might cause a child to have low self esteem. One type of activity that could be useful involves proprioception. Proprioception is the ability for a person to recognize where their limbs are in space. Doing activities that incorporate gross motor movements, like pushing or pulling heavy objects, are proprioceptive activities. At home, school or a child care center can encourage proprioceptive activities by having the right tools, like wheelbarrows, shovels (big and small), and carts with ropes for pulling. By allowing children to move around rocks, pulling the cart, digging holes, the children are engaging their big muscles and able to be more aware of their limbs as they move about.
Additional activities could be carrying water for plants, pulling weeds, or helping to pour mulch onto the garden beds.
Proprioceptive activities allow a child to feel like they’ve accomplished some hard and helps a child to develop their gross motor skills, which is something that’s required before they develop fine motor skills.
I mentioned unsupervised risky behavior above. Allowing supervised risky play can greatly benefit the self esteem of a child. Things like climbing trees, jumping off big rocks, or other high things; balancing across a log or some tires, are all risky play activities. Most schools and child care centers can’t allow a child to climb trees, however at home, moms can set up an environment that allows for some risk taking.
At child care kids can climb shorter ladders or step stools. Jumping off high things can also include landing into something soft, or sliding down a pole. But taking risks could also be using tools that could cause injury like scissors or other sharp objects. Children in Montessori schools are encouraged to sew, knit, and cut food for meal preparation, under supervision.
Risky play has been acknowledged by Norwegian and Australian teachers as being something that increases children’s self esteem, among other things like problem solving and developing motor skills. (Little, 2012)
Just like proprioceptive work, risky play helps children become more aware of their bodies, improves their physical well being, and allows children to experiment with how far they can do a thing before they get scared or feel like it’s unsafe. Kids should be able to push their limits instead of being forced to live in a bubble of over-protection.
Traditional educational locations probably won’t be able to allow children to take on the more riskier play, but moms, forest schools and natural schools can allow it.
Risky play doesn’t just mean physical risk. What about a game with friends; where a child takes that chance of not being picked for a team, or they get pointed at for “being it”, or they are the first to lose? Social risks also increase self-esteem in a child as long as it doesn’t escalate to teasing or bullying and everyone seems OK with the gentle ribbing from their peers.
Chores and Assigned Duties
Self esteem enhancing activities for preschoolers doesn’t have to be all outside. At home and within a classroom there are maintenance items that must be regularly completed. What better way to help kids gain self esteem and the adults to gain a helping hand than to give kids a sense of ownership and responsibility for cleaning up after themselves and serving themselves lunch and snacks?
Of course, the tools used for meal time and cleaning up should be age appropriate. Smaller pitchers can be used for pouring milk, as well as small tongs to pick items of fresh food. Children can be asked to set the table and clean up their messes after they are finished. Students can be assigned to wash the tables each day as well.
Chores in general are a fantastic way to give kids a sense of belonging and contribution to their family. In addition, chores teach discipline and delayed gratification, gratitude and prevents entitlement. Many times I have heard stories of children going off to college and not knowing how to scramble eggs or work the washing machine. Allowing kids to do things for themselves through household chores helps to prep them to become capable adults.
Group activities can also foster higher self esteem in preschoolers. Because a sense of familiarity fosters friendships, allowing children to work and play together, to gain a sense of familiarity, will increase their likelihood of becoming friends. (Curry & Johnson, 1990) Not only will friendships add a sense of security to a child, but they will also gain a sense of self-concept by being able to compare themselves with other children. Preschool students can work in groups on a project, arts and crafts, play time or a game. The time will allow them to get to know each other and discover sameness and differences.
Imaginative play has been shown to let children assume roles of power and to gain self confidence through those roles. (Curry, 1990) Whether they are Batman, a caregiver, a doctor or the captain of a ship – pretend play can allow children to assume a role and to behave within the rules of that role and boundaries of that role. Having to behave within a child-defined role can help a child to also learn self control, to take turns, language skills, and can enhance peer relationships. (Curry, 1990)
Problem solving through dramatic imaginative play allows children to face a problem without actually having any harm come to them and helps them to understand the perspective of their peers.
I hope you found at least one idea that you can implement today to help your little one gain some self confidence, or just keep it going at maximum levels. I’d love to hear/read if you used one of my tips or something else you did. Join me on the HPF Facebook page and tell me all about it.
Until next time, Screensavers.
Curry, Nance E. & Johnson, Carl N. (1990) Beyond Self Esteem: Developing a genuine sense of human value. Retrieved November 22, 2019 from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED326316.pdf
Little, Helen (2012) Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood Volume 13 Number 4 2012, Early Childhood Teachers’ Beliefs about Children’s Risky Play in Australia and Norway. Retrieved November 22, 2019 from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.2304/ciec.2012.13.4.300