50 Tiny (but Powerful!) Ways You Can Encourage Your Kids Every Day

Experts share the little things you can do right now to help your child be more confident, resilient, curious, and motivated, while also helping them know they are loved.

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"Catch" them being good

MNStudio/Shutterstock"We spend so much time focusing on consequences [for bad behavior] but at the same time it is so important to recognize and reward positive behavior when justified. Look for when your kids do good things and then validate and reward those behaviors. We've been helping parents with troubled or challenging children for over 35 years and our experience has shown how important positive reinforcement is for kids." —Dennis Poncher, founder of Because I Love You (B.I.L.Y.), a non-profit organization supporting parents. (Hint: It all leads back to these magic words that will change your life.)

Play LEGOs with them

3d_kot/Shutterstock"The child who plays and builds with blocks (or similar toys) is experimenting with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) concepts like measurement, symmetry, balance, and scale, and soft skills such as creativity, resilience, teamwork, and self-expression. This feeds self-confidence because it gives kids the chance to practice succeeding at tasks before they encounter them in other contexts and situations in the world." —Erin Zambataro, MS, Early Learning Lead Librarian, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. (For a little inspiration, check out these mind-blowing LEGO sculptures.)

Set up checkers for two

Olga-Kovalenko/Shutterstock"Be sure to play with your child. Children develop the benefits of play at a faster rate when they play with an adult. Adults can expand the play and offer challenges, and partner with them as they solve problems." —Erin Zambataro

Play the "What if?" game

Nina-Buday/Shutterstock"Ask your child a 'what if' question. For instance, 'What if we only build with the square blocks?' or 'What if we could breathe under water?' Young children can think creatively and learn real world concepts while enjoying a fun, playful experience." —Erin Zambataro. (And this is an easy way to encourage your kid. Here are some other productive things to do while waiting in line!)

Offer a challenge

Alena-Ozerova/Shutterstock"Suggest a specific project that stretches your child's skills. Try 'Can you build a house that will be strong enough to withstand the wolf's huffing and puffing like the third little pig did in The Three Little Pigs?' or 'Could you help me come up with a plan for dinners this week?' By offering these challenges, you're creating opportunities for critical thinking and problem-solving, allowing your child to grow her self-confidence when she succeeds, or try again after failing." —Erin Zambataro

Praise them when they try something difficult

Nong-Mars/Shutterstock"It can be powerful to share a positive comment when kids attempt something difficult on their own. All it takes is a simple acknowledgement like 'It was tough to give your little sister your teddy bear in the car, but you did a great job of sharing.' Or 'You worked really hard at putting the cap back on the toothpaste.' Children need to learn that they are lovable, smart, and capable. When children feel good about themselves, they are more willing to try new things and persevere when facing difficult tasks." —Erin Zambataro. (This is one of the reasons experts say you should never call your kid "smart.")

Let them solve their own problems

AnnaAiva/Shutterstock"Encourage young children to try solving problems themselves first when facing a challenge. For example, 'Your favorite shirt is dirty today and we have to get ready to go. What do you think we should do?' You can step in if your child needs further direction or encouragement but don't try to automatically solve every problem. Also, don't forget to congratulate her when she finds a successful solution." —Erin Zambataro

Take breaks from the iPad

BestPhotoStudio/Shutterstock"Limiting the use of technology with our young ones may encourage them to become more creative and curious about their surroundings. While media and technology use are at the very center of our children's lives today and offer essential skills for the learning environment of the 21st century, the excess of media content they consume can have a negative effect on their social-emotional, cognitive and even physical development, according to research done by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Take a technology time-out every day." —Corina Bethencourt, certified K-6 teacher and educational blogger. (Plus: Screen time is linked to speech delays in toddlers.)

Let them get bored

Romrodphoto/Shutterstock"By letting your child be bored you offer them an opportunity to find different ways to distract themselves and by doing so, they practice creativity, the ability to problem solve, develop their cognitive skills and have real experiences with their surroundings." —Corina Bethencourt

Help them establish a daily routine

Bacho/Shutterstock"Children thrive on feeling secure and knowing what to expect each day so they love routines. Work with your kiddo to establish a routine for him at home everyday. That way, he will know what to expect next and will not feel insecure or anxious." —Corina Bethencourt. (Hint: Pattern it after the daily routine of geniuses for a head start.)

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