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Tips for building your kid's perseverance through play

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According to legend, Thomas Edison failed 1,000 times before he invented the lightbulb. Lucky for us, he didn’t give up! Perseverance and resilience are some of the most vital attributes that toddlers and preschoolers need to learn to become successful adults.

At an age where their emotions, especially frustration, are at their height, it’s essential to show your children that it’s okay to fail and important to try and try again.

Teaching grit and perseverance helps young children develop independence and sets them up for success in later life. The great thing is that it’s easy to build these skills through play, whether at home, on the playground, or anywhere else.

Why teach perseverance

Children learn a lot through the behaviours parents model for them - perseverance is no different. Avoid protecting your child from your own failures so that they can understand, from an early age, the value of persistence and effort. Teach them that it’s okay to make mistakes and chat to them about times when you, as parents, have motivated yourselves to push past failure. The more times they are exposed to this never-give-up attitude, the more they will be encouraged to persevere in their daily life.

Part of kids learning to master a task is the ability to cope with the disappointment and frustration of the early failures. This ability to self-regulate their emotions comes from being able to see and work towards achieving a long-term goal, rather than focusing merely on the short term. Building this resilience will help them cope when faced with something difficult and have the confidence to know that anything is possible if they keep trying.

How to teach perseverance

1. At the playground

If your child is interested in trying something new at the playground, foster both their desire to keep trying until they can master the skill and the effort required to try it as many times as necessary to achieve that mastery.

At the start, offer as much physical support as they might need to feel confident in their attempt. This will help them overcome any nerves or fear and encourage them to keep trying. One of the most important aspects of encouraging perseverance is that they feel safe in their attempts – whether that’s physical safety or the emotional safety of knowing they can make mistakes without retribution. No matter how challenging they find an activity, encourage them to keep trying to find a way to succeed, so they learn stickability and prove to themselves that they can do anything.

A great way to help children shake off nerves is to provide examples of other skills that they initially found difficult but then succeeded at, illustrating that they’ve persisted in accomplishing a goal before and can do it again. Praise their efforts and break the goal up, focussing on small successes along the way. It’s also great if they see other children attempting the same play equipment as an intrinsic motivator to succeed.

2. Puzzles

There are plenty of ways to encourage perseverance through play at home. Puzzles are a great way to start building this value as the end goal is visible and finite, and the difficulty level can be stepped up as your child becomes more adept at completing them.

Start by helping your little one to complete it so they are familiar with the process. Then gradually step back and only offer support when needed. If they get frustrated, encourage them to keep trying and point out how much progress they’ve made and how good they will feel when they’ve succeeded. Before long, you won’t be able to stop them, and you’ll be buying bigger and more complicated puzzles!

3. Duplo and Lego

Gravity can be a great teacher, making building toys like Duplo and Lego perfect for showing your child the value of persistence. When their creations collapse, as they inevitably do, make “try again!” your mantra.

Teach them to see it as an opportunity to build something new rather than as a failure. The more you reinforce this concept, the more they will pick up on it themselves – and soon, they’ll be saying “try again!” to themselves.

4. Sports and music

Whether your child is learning to kick a ball, ride a trike or bike, or mastering more advanced sports, grit is just as important a determiner of success as their natural abilities. Outdoor games are a great way to introduce your kids to sport. No matter where they lie on the spectrum, encouraging children to take up a sport is a great way to expose them to the benefits of practice and persistence.

Praise them for their efforts, not their results, and focus on how much progress they are making. Similarly, learning a musical instrument teaches valuable lessons in perseverance. Whether your child’s interest lies in sports or music – or both – finding a hobby they’re passionate about will motivate them to improve their abilities through practice.

While it’s instinctive to say “oh no!” when a drink is spilt or a tower they’re building falls over, these are all great learning opportunities to show that milk can be mopped up and a tower built again. No-one is born able to walk, talk, climb playgrounds or swing from monkey bars, but through practice, perseverance, and a never-give-up attitude, anything becomes possible.

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