While some may believe that simply meeting a child’s basic needs of food, water, security, education, etc. will suffice, there is far more that goes into providing your child with the skills and confidence they need to lead a successful and contented life.
Self-esteem is, by far, one of the most important social and emotional needs that must be met in different ways at all stages of a child’s life and development. Self-esteem is linked to so many important development factors in a child’s life, including self-worth, positive outcomes, and life goals.
As a teacher and licensed expert in child development, I have compiled a list of the “Do’s and Don’ts” of building self-esteem in your child while also providing you with several self-esteem activities for kids and games to foster your child’s self-esteem development at all different ages and stages.
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Building Your Child’s Self-Esteem – The Do’s and the Dont’s
Boosting social skills and self-esteem go hand in hand. Use this list of Do’s and Dont’s to help you explore how you can boost self-esteem, change low self-esteem, and encourage self-worth in your child throughout day-to-day life.
DO Model Positive Self Talk
As parents and caregivers, we often do not realize just how much of our own life is viewed by our children. One of the best ways to boost self-esteem in your child is to model positive self-esteem in yourself as well as use positive self-talk when dealing with difficulties yourself. This will, in turn, teach your child how to give positive responses to their situations and feelings.
DO Engage Your Child’s Interests
Promote self-esteem by engaging your child’s interests. When children are being engaged in activities that particularly interest them, they are being set up for success in a way that will positively influence their confidence and self-esteem.
DO Encourage a Growth Mindset
A growth mindset refers to a mindset that is built by self-improvement and positive affirmations. You can encourage your child’s growth mindset by instilling a simple change in words when responding to their behaviors. Instead of using negative self-talk words such as “can’t” and “no,” which have a negative connotation, using positive, confidence-building words such as “can” and “will try” will lead to greater confidence and more positive self-esteem.
DO Use Thoughtful Praise
When praising your child for positive behavior it is best to develop your praise language by making it more meaningful and useful for your child. For example, let’s say your 2nd-grade child was working on a writing assignment. Instead of simply saying, “Good job! I am so proud of you!” try rephrasing this general praise to pinpoint something more specific for your child to focus on. For instance, you could say something like this: “Wow! I can tell that you are putting great effort into the neatness of your penmanship. Your teacher will surely be proud of this. I know I am.” Using thoughtful praise will build a further sense of self-esteem and self-worth in your child because they will be able to identify where they succeeded. This will give them the confidence to continue improving in other areas.
DO Allow Children to be a part of Decision-Making
In many ways, children can feel that they are just “along for the ride” with really no say in the decisions of family life. While we of course want to leave the very important decisions to the grown-ups, including your child in smaller, everyday life decisions that will affect them as well as the rest of the family can show your child that you value them and their opinion. When you support their decision, this can boost self-esteem while promoting a positive self-image at the same time. Engage your child in decisions such as what to have for dinner or what outfit to wear to school. For older children, such as teens, ask for your teen’s input on a specific family matter. Involving older children in some of the more serious decisions of family life, where appropriate, can help to boost their self-confidence and it will send them the positive, self-esteem-building message that their voices are heard and valued in the family. Some examples may be including your older children in the discussion of the possibility of moving to a new house or school. While you as the parent will make the final decision, getting your child’s input will make them feel valued and will show them that you respect their opinions.
DO Teach and Model Proper Coping Mechanisms
Nothing can make a child feel more out of control and afraid than having to deal with a difficult situation without a sufficient set of coping skills to help them handle it. You can help your child take on the problems and unexpected events that everyday life can throw at them by both modeling and teaching proper coping skills. Practicing skills such as deep breathing through frustration, approaching peer pressure with confidence, as well as practicing self-awareness, are all ways in which your child will feel more in control of their behavior. This, in turn, fosters a healthy sense of self-esteem in many different social situations.
DO Help to Identify Strengths and Weaknesses
Teach your child that every person has their own unique strengths and weaknesses. Share your own with them, and teach them about how all people, including them, have a unique ability to contribute to the world around them. By identifying strengths and weaknesses with your child, your child can identify things that interest them as well as build self-confidence and self-esteem in their unique strengths. One of the biggest self-esteem issues among children is the presence of overconfidence, which can be detrimental to a child’s social and emotional wellness if they have been falsely assured. Teach your child about differences in others and themselves, and celebrate those differences.
DONT Compare your Child to Other Children
This is a major self-esteem destroyer amongst children and adults alike. Never compare your child’s behavior to that of another child’s. Phrases such as “Why can’t you be more like your brother” are detrimental to your child’s self-esteem and sense of self-worth. Focus on your child’s positive characteristics and mold them with positive affirmation as well as positive self-talk.
DONT Put Pressure on your Children
When helping your child participate in self-esteem-boosting activities be careful not to place performance pressure upon them. This is something that many parents and caregivers can do without even knowing it. It may seem helpful and encouraging to push your child to succeed; however, for certain children, this tactic can achieve the opposite, resulting in low self-confidence and self-esteem.
DONT Engage in Negative Self-Talk about Yourself or Others
Children are expert observers. As a part of their intellectual growth and development, they are constantly observing the behaviors and language of other people, most often adults. Adults often don’t realize just how much their behavior and speech can impact the self-image and confidence of children. For instance, when participating in an activity, show good sportsmanship, do not harshly critique or judge the actions of yourself or someone else. Children pick up on this instantaneously and are sure to follow in your footsteps during future events. Impress upon your children the fact that self-esteem building should not be built upon judging others or comparing ourselves to them. So be sure to steer clear of any negative self-talk that could create the wrong ideas about self-esteem in your child’s mind.
DONT Make All of the Decisions
An important part of self-esteem encouragement includes decision-making. When children are not allowed to make decisions for themselves you could inadvertently be telling them that you do not trust them enough to make decisions on their own. This can be detrimental to a child’s self-esteem. Start with small decisions and gradually build upon those as children prove their capabilities.
DONT Force Activities Upon your Child
Just because you were a basketball star in high school does not mean that your child will be or even wants to be. Allow your child to take part in activities that interest him or her directly and do not push certain activities upon your child. Having to live up to a certain standard placed by yourself or another family member can be extremely distressing to a child and create serious self-esteem issues in the future.
Self-Esteem Boosting Activities for Kids & Teens
To boost self-esteem in children and teens, consider self-esteem activities for kids, which are designed to help your child or teen build positive self-esteem through activities that present them with a challenge but also set them up for success.
It is important to find self-esteem activities for kids that promote a healthy balance between both challenge and success because, for kids’ self-esteem to develop and grow in a positive way, they must be presented with challenges in which trial and error take place. However, these challenges must not be impossible to conquer because they could then lead to low self-esteem.
Here we have compiled a list of several of the best self-esteem activities for kids of all ages. Each includes a description of the activity as well as a skill that is primarily focused on. Children of all ages can benefit from activities such as these. Not only do they promote the development of healthy self-esteem, but they also support children in their overall social and emotional development, making them a great all-around activity choice to build confidence and self-worth.
Coloring and Free Art
Target Age Group – Everyone!
Focus Skills – Artistic Creativity and Expression
Art of any kind is an excellent activity to boost a child’s confidence because of the child-directed nature that it provides. Children can express themselves creatively without the construct of specific directions and rules to hold them back.
Coloring, in particular, is an excellent activity for young children to participate in because it gives them the right amount of guidance and direction that young kids crave while also allowing them to make decisions such as color and design choices to make it their own.
Adults can encourage children’s self-esteem and confidence in coloring and free art by providing them with thoughtful praise, noticing specific design choices the child made, and praising them for their piece’s unique qualities.
Why I Like This Activity – I particularly like the activity of coloring and free art because of the wide age range that it can reach. As you can see above, the target age group for this activity is listed as “everyone” and that is because children of all ages and even adults can participate in coloring and free art.
The world of coloring for artistic expression has exploded within the last five years and for good reason. Many people, adults included, have found that the act of coloring provides relaxation and stress relief because it allows for artistic expression with some direction.
Coloring falls perfectly in the balance between the challenge and success factors that we discussed earlier. Just make sure to find a coloring or free art project that is appropriately suited for your child. Giving a preschool-age child a coloring book that is meant for teens and adults would cause frustration and discouragement.
Target Age Group – Preschool to 6th Grade
Focus Skills – Teamwork and Following Directions
Scavenger hunts involve children following specific clues and directions that lead them to positive results such as a surprise treasure or exciting goal.
Scavenger hunts come in a wide range of different topics. For young children, a nature scavenger hunt may involve going outside and searching for specific things on a chart such as a leaf, worm, ant, or pine cone. This is a very open-ended type of scavenger hunt, which makes it great for the confidence-building of young children.
For older children, scavenger hunts with more complex directions, clues, and tasks will give them the challenge they need while also leading to success. It is important in scavenger hunts for older children to provide additional clues and hints to help them achieve their goals without needing complete direction.
Children are bound to feel a sense of pride and accomplishment when they reach the end of their scavenger hunt. Compliment them on their focus and specific skills such as direction-following and perseverance to further promote positive self-esteem.
Why I Like This Activity – I love the flexibility that scavenger hunts provide. They can be done independently or with a large group. These types of activities, when performed in a group, also promote positive team building, which is a huge factor in building self-esteem.
Target Age Group – 1st Grade – Teen
Focus Skills – Gross Motor Development and Body Expression
If your child enjoys being active and participating in activities such as climbing and jumping, an obstacle course may be exactly the self-confidence boost that he or she needs.
Obstacle courses are designed to test your physical limits and improve flexibility, balance, and overall self-confidence in your body and its abilities. They can be designed and set up in ways that fit the abilities and skills of your child while also adding a challenge that will encourage them to work toward an end goal of achieving a particularly tricky obstacle.
There are several child-friendly options for obstacle practice such as trampoline parks or specific gyms; however, making a child-friendly obstacle course in your backyard can be just as fun. Simply set up some obstacles using different things you may have stored in your garage such as traffic cones, rope, cardboard boxes, and pieces of wood to create a fun yet challenging course for your child to try.
Encourage your children with confidence-boosting language and promote their self-assuredness with positive language.
Here is a great video tutorial on how to build your own obstacle course for your child!
Why I Like This Activity – This activity can fit a large array of age groups and it also works to promote a healthy lifestyle. Encouraging your child to be active and engage in physical activity will instill the enjoyment of an active and healthy lifestyle in at a young age.
Target Age Group – Elementary – Teen
Focus Skills – Endurance and Respect
Another group of excellent physical self-esteem activities for kids is the martial arts, include Karate, Taekwondo, Judo, and many others. These types of activities also help your child find and conquer their physical limits while simultaneously teaching them respect and teamwork.
When children work together to perform new movements, they get to practice speaking with self-confidence to themselves and others as well. Martial arts offer a unique opportunity for your child to be placed in the role of self-esteem booster for others, thus teaching them good sportsmanship and friendship.
Many places offer professional martial training to children of all ages with instruction given by an expert in the practice. However, there are also several online options in which children can watch others perform basic martial arts movements and follow along. Even though this will not give the group aspect that an actual class would provide, getting the whole family involved is a great self-esteem booster and an excellent way for parents and adults to model self-esteem and self-assuredness.
Why I Like This Activity – Martial Arts provides a unique feature that many other sports do not have, and this includes being both part of a group/team but also working on individual improvement. Martial Arts celebrates the unique and individual abilities of all children and helps them to find their own strengths and build upon them.
Target Age Group – Middle School – Teen
Focus Skills – Teamwork and Critical Thinking
Escape Rooms offer many similar benefits that scavenger hunts do. They allow children to work together as a team to achieve the one end goal of “escaping” a room in or before the time allotted.
As children move through the room and discover new clues as well as solve mysteries, their self-esteem is promoted, which encourages them to continue moving on throughout the room. Escape Rooms are ideal for older children because they will provide them with the intellectual challenge that they crave as well as the exciting result.
However, it is important to make sure that an adult always accompanies younger children into the escape room for both safety and guidance as needed.
There are several great escape rooms throughout the country, and new ones are being developed every day. Parents and teachers can even find “Escape Rooms in a Box” offered for a wide range of different ages. These types of escape rooms can be set up and performed anywhere, making them great self-esteem activities for young children and families.
Why I Like This Activity – This type of activity encourages a child’s imagination along with their self-esteem, which is truly a great combination. They also allow children to practice more difficult critical thinking skills in a forgiving environment in which they can work with other people to achieve the same goal.
Target Age Group – 2nd Grade – Teen
Focus Skills – Self-Evaluation and Open Expression
Journaling is a self-esteem activity that gives children and teens a safe place to express their thoughts and feelings while also looking back upon past entries and evaluating the events that took place as well as how they reacted to them.
Journaling can provide an expressive outlet for children to become more vulnerable about both the positive and negative things that happen throughout their lives.
There are many types of journals that children and teens can use. Some are open journals, which are simply pages in which the child can write about anything and everything. Others are more guided, with prompts to get your child thinking about specific situations or feelings.
Prompted journals, such as a gratitude journal, are a great way for children and teens to express their thoughts, reflect upon their life events, and build self-esteem by looking back and seeing all of the things they were able to do and achieve throughout their time with that particular journal.
Why I Like This Activity – It allows children to practice self-expression and self-evaluation in a private place. It is for them and them alone, which promotes the building of self-esteem that is completely child-based and not encouraged by any outside forces. It is entirely their own.
As a parent, you are the top expert on your child and his or her needs when it comes to self-esteem and confidence. Much of this also includes trial and error, so do not become discouraged when certain activities or tactics don’t work.
The key to finding the right activity for your child is achieving that healthy balance of challenge and success. It is also important to find an activity that interests your child. Self-esteem Activities for kids come in all shapes and sizes, and they can be altered to fit your child’s exact needs.
A child’s self-esteem will wax and wane throughout the entirety of their lives; however, when we as parents can instill a sense of healthy self-esteem early on in our child’s lives as well as help them promote self-confidence on their own, your child’s self-esteem will become their own. It will become something that they are in control of rather than controlled by.