Insecurity is a part of life, and a very common stage of development. As children move from infancy to toddlerhood, they begin to step outside their familiar bubble of home and into the more uncertain worlds of daycare and preschool. While this transition can be scary, children who develop confidence are able to take on these new challenges and excel in school.
So how does a child develop confidence? Like with all things in early development, parents and teachers help a lot. In her book Emotional Development of Three and Four Year Olds, Susan A. Miller provides some tricks for parents and caregivers on how to build confidence in their children and boost early self-esteem. Below are a few tips on how to ensure your child grows up confident and ready to take on the world.
1. Provide Leadership Opportunities
Give your child the chance to develop and show off her leadership skills. This is especially important with hesitant or shy children. For instance, ask the child to invite several children to help rake up the leaves, put them in the wagon, and add them to the mulch pile. Even doing something as simple as putting a child in charge of being the line leader when the class goes to the lobby for dismissal can make her feel special. Be sure to rotate these opportunities between all children.
2. Provide Open-Ended Materials
Encourage experimentation with items such as sand, water, clay, blocks, and wood. Because there is no right or wrong way to use these materials, children can explore them with confidence.
3. Offer Props to Act Out Scenarios
By using hats, toy figurines, and puppets, a child can feel empowered and confident as he gains control of a situation. Encourage preschoolers to clearly express what they want, such as saying, “Do not smash the tower. The dragon is living there.”
4. Design Cozy, Secure Play Structures
Create a cave, house, or police station by throwing a blanket or a bug beach towel over a card table or clothesline. Suggest that a child slip inside this unique retreat to calm down and center her thoughts. She may wish to pretend to be a powerful character, such as a police officer or doctor.
5. Develop Interesting, Secure Personal Spaces
Have children create make-believe bubble spaces around their bodies to dance inside so no one can bump into them. Make rectangular lines with masking tape on the table, or use plastic trays or sheets of aluminum foil to create visual boundaries for individual finger painting or play dough sculptures