I often talk in my blogs about how we intentionally create safe spaces for children to fail in order to support the development of persistence and problem-solving skills in regards to older children. Today I would like to shift the focus to our youngest visitors, from birth to 3 years old, who need a different type of support in developing the capacity to stick with something that is challenging, and cope with frustration.
First and foremost – capitalize on your child’s interests. When a child is engaged in something that they like to do or are interested in they are much more likely to see it through to completion. When working with infants and toddlers this often means thinking about their interests creatively. For instance, if dumping containers of toys or food all over is a favorite activity, think about what you could create that would stimulate them in a less frustrating, or rather more constructive way. I love Voss water bottles because of their sturdiness and wide mouth. Fill one with soft pom-poms for your child to explore. While trying to empty the bottle they will not only be working on problems solving and persistence, they will also be developing their ability to focus on a task and building fine motor control.
Allow your child the time to do an activity or task repeatedly and for long periods of time if they choose to – when a child does this they are working on mastery. When they have mastered a skill, task, or activity they feel competent, confident, and powerful. These feelings will transfer over into many areas of their life, including when they are faced with something difficult that they might not be as interested in doing.
Help your child learn to help themselves. This is one we all struggle with but it is so important that we practice stepping back, watching, and waiting to see where we can offer support but not take over. If your child is struggling but does not ask for help, let them struggle and figure it out on their own. If they ask for help, help them by offering suggestions, i.e. if they are working on a puzzle suggest that they try turning the piece. If your child is younger you can say and do this together.
Notice and name – when you see your child persist or not get frustrated tell them but don’t over do it on the praise. You would be amazed how much this alone does to boost a child’s sense of self-confidence. You can say something like, “that was really hard but you kept trying and didn’t get frustrated.”
DCM is the perfect environment to support children of all ages in developing these critical skills because it is fun and engaging. As I said at the beginning of this post, when a child is engaged in something they enjoy, they will concentrate for longer periods of time and work harder on figuring out how to achieve their intended outcome.
I would love to hear your stories about how you support your child at home or any a-ha moments you have had about your child’s development while here at DCM. Share your stories with me here, on Facebook or Twitter!