How Playing on the Playground Can Help Kids Build Confidence

If you work with children, you know just how much of an impact self-confidence can have on their everyday lives. Children with healthy self-esteem feel pride in their accomplishments, self-assurance in their ability to achieve and acceptance from themselves and their peers. Overall, building confidence in kids helps them to be the best they can be at home, at school, alone, and with friends — and it’s a vital part of healthy child development.

Did you know one of the best places for kids to build their self-confidence is on the playground? The fact is, playgrounds and child self-confidence often go hand in hand.

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How Time on the Playground Can Help Kids With Confidence

If you’re wondering how to build a child’s confidence, encourage them to try new things, and help them cope with their mistakes, look no further than the schoolyard or community playground. As kids play, both by themselves and with their peers, they develop the physical, mental, and emotional skills they need for lasting confidence and self-acceptance.

Here are five of the many ways that playing on the playground helps build self-esteem.

1. Builds Peer Relationships

Children feel an innate need to fit in with their peers, but some kids find it more difficult than others to make friends. When a child does not feel like they fit in, they might worry they aren’t as good or likable as the other kids. But when they overcome these feelings, kids will feel a sense of accomplishment and belonging to a larger community.

Playground equipment such as swings and activity panels gives kids a place to explore their interests together and achieve common goals. An inclusive play space allows for collaborative play and takes away some of the awkwardness kids feel when they approach someone new.

2. Allows Kids to Make Their Own Decisions and Pursue Their Interests

Kids feel more powerful when they’re allowed to make their own choices. While structured activities have their own importance, unstructured playtime on the playground empowers children to explore their interests on their own as they choose which equipment and activities they most enjoy.

In addition to feeling more competent in their decision-making abilities, kids can also discover talents and interests they didn’t know they had as they try new things. They’ll feel a sense of pride as they identify activities they’re good at and genuinely enjoy.

3. Encourages Healthy Risk-Taking

Any time a child tries something new, it’s an opportunity for a self-confidence boost. Kids need to take risks to build lasting confidence, and a playground allows them to take these risks in a safe, supervised environment. Walking across a balance beam or swinging across the monkey bars might feel intimidating to them at first, but they’ll feel a sense of pride as they learn new skills and achieve their goals.

4. Develops Essential Life Skills

The skills children learn from the playground affect every aspect of development. Playing on the playground can improve cognitive function, leading to higher test scores and increasing confidence in the classroom. Play can also boost motor and social skills, critical thinking, hand-eye coordination, and creativity — skills that help kids excel in many areas of life. Developing these abilities can help kids feel capable and confident in both their academic and social lives.

5. Helps Kids Manage Disappointment and Frustration

Some of the best childhood memories happen on a playground, but children can also experience feelings of impatience, frustration, and disappointment. When they have to stand in line to use a slide or try to play with someone who is still learning to share, they learn that these negative experiences aren’t the end of the world. With proper encouragement from a caregiver, kids learn that they can effectively manage and overcome frustration or disappointment.

How to Help Kids Build Confidence

Caregivers play a crucial role in developing the confidence of the children in their care. Here are some tips on how to build self-confidence in a child, on and off the playground.

1. Praise Their Efforts and Minimize Criticism

Praise is a vital self-esteem builder — especially when you praise kids the right way. The best praise is specific and focused on positive attitudes and efforts rather than just results. You should also offer praise at the right times, when it will be meaningful. Over-praising lowers the bar for kids to try harder and can send the message that they’re either already perfect or that they have to be.

It’s also important to use criticism sparingly. Pay attention to what kids do well and enjoy, then help them develop these strengths — but remember that perfection is never the goal. Constant criticism can translate into how kids think about themselves and tells them they’ll never be good enough, but nurturing their strengths helps them feel capable and accepted.

2. Teach Them Positive Self-Talk

Your encouragement is essential in helping kids deal with insecurities and disappointment, but you won’t always be there to offer your support. Kids should learn how to build themselves up when their confidence is wavering.

Teach children to say “I think I can, I think I can” or to remind themselves of a past accomplishment when starting a new activity. Encourage kids to pick themselves up after a mistake by saying, “Practice makes progress!” or, “There’s always next time!” This positive self-talk will stick with kids for the rest of their lives.

3. Let Them Exercise Their Independence

Especially at younger ages, adult supervision and guidance can be an important part of playtime. However, parents and caregivers should look for ways to step back at times to let kids exercise their independence. Children have a natural desire to try things on their own — it’s a healthy part of childhood development and an important way that kids build confidence and competency.

Show kids how to do things and support them as they begin, but also allow them to do what they can — even if they struggle or make mistakes. Allowing kids to try things on their own doesn’t have to mean compromising your child’s safety. Perceived risk and independence are what matter. So you can still keep a watchful eye as your child tries to climb up the ladder on their own, for example, or even be ready to jump in if needed.

4. Stick to Age-Appropriate Activities

Kids can become discouraged if they try and fail at an activity that is simply beyond their capabilities. While it’s important for kids to learn how to cope with failure, a child’s confidence can suffer from too many attempts at something that is simply beyond their grasp. This is where some guidance from parents can help tremendously.

Direct your child to activities that are well-suited to their age and abilities so they can feel capable. This doesn’t mean you should avoid challenges. Just make challenges easy enough for your child to grasp but hard enough that they feel accomplished when they succeed. For example, your preschooler may not have the upper body strength needed to traverse the monkey bars, but they may still feel accomplished with you holding them up as they grab onto the bars.

5. Play Confidence-Building Games

If you want to make a concerted effort toward improving kids’ self-esteem, consider some children’s confidence-building games. Here are a few ideas to try:

  • Catch the compliment: One of the best games to enhance self-esteem is called “catch the compliment.” This game looks like a simple game of catch, with players standing in a circle. The twist is that, as someone tosses the ball to another player, they must give the catcher a compliment. For example, you could toss the ball to your child and say, “You have a contagious smile!” or “Your drawings are so creative!” Then, the child would do the same for whoever they throw the ball to next.
  • Obstacle course: Obstacle courses may take a bit of setup, but they’re great fun and can encourage kids to overcome challenges and try repeatedly to beat their own time records. You can also create an obstacle course on the playground by just using your imagination. For example, you might decide that certain parts of the ground are lava and watch kids find creative ways to skip and climb their way across this adventurous landscape.
  • Made-up games: It’s also a great idea to let kids come up with their own games. This is an excellent way to foster their creativity and build their self-confidence. Allow as much freedom as you can for kids to use their imaginations, only intervening if you foresee a legitimate safety concern. Kids can be impressive inventors when it comes to manufacturing fun, so you may be surprised by what they come up with!

Shop Playgrounds From Little Tikes Commercial

The benefits of child self-esteem activities at the playground are too significant to overlook. If you’re interested in purchasing high-quality commercial playground equipment for your community, school or daycare, place of worship, or other organization, Little Tikes Commercial can help.

We believe playtime is essential for lasting self-confidence and the development of critical life skills. That’s why we offer a wide variety of swings, slides, tunnels, climbers, and other equipment designed for kids of all ages to have a fun, safe, and enriching playtime experience.

We offer design assistance, financing options, and numerous other resources to help communities like yours build a playground that meets your needs and budget. Contact us today for more information about our innovative playground solutions, or request a quote to start designing the perfect playground for the children in your community.

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