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Sunday / January 21

How to Encourage a Growth Mindset in Preschool

My preschool grandchildren received many exciting toys and games over the holidays this year. My four-year-old grandson, Brandon, received a large container of small Legos and a kit of Lego people in a park setting. He was excited about this gift but immediately expressed concern about how to assemble the Lego pieces. He asked his grandfather to teach him how to build the various assemblies by himself. Grandpa structured the activities in the following way to build his grandson’s confidence:

  1. Brandon first assembled simple items; the people, a picnic table, a stroller with a baby, and a lawn mower.
  2. Grandpa next had him create the merry-go-round with people. He asked Brandon to find specific Lego pieces that had to be assembled by color, shape, and size. He then guided his grandson in matching the pieces to the assembly instruction pictures.
  3. With the more complicated park pieces, grandpa had to help Brandon assemble the pieces that required small muscle dexterity.
  4. When assembling the kit of classic Lego blocks, grandpa first modeled how to construct a train and a car using the Lego instruction manual. After watching his grandfather assemble more complex projects, Brandon was guided in using the Lego instructions to assemble a crocodile and a flower with petals that open and close.

When discussing this learning experience with my grandson, he stated the following:

  • I know how to build with Lego when Grandpa helps me use the instructions.
  • I do not think I can read the instruction book by myself but I can build with Lego by myself when I use my own ideas.
  • My favorite Lego activities were building and playing with the lawn mower and the train.
  • I would like more Lego kits for vehicles and construction equipment.
  • I also like being interviewed for the blog and taking pictures of my new Lego toy projects.

These statements showed that Brandon was developing a growth mindset. When discussing the concept of growth mindset with preschool parents, I remind parents that they do not have to reward their children for every accomplishment or attempt. While encouraging growth, parents should not overwhelm their children with too many demands. Preschool children should be encouraged to be as self-reliant as possible and have confidence that they can take care of themselves. Here are some ideas to encourage preschool children to support their own growth:

  • Have the preschooler learn how to be self-reliant at meal time by setting the table for the family, feeding himself, and cleaning up after meals.
  • Teach the preschooler how to manage his personal hygiene by brushing his teeth, attending to his toilet needs, bathing and dressing himself.
  • Provide guidance in cleaning up after play time.
  • Provide encouragement to play by himself.
  • Help the child learn how to clean the house and work outside with parents on yard projects.
  • Nurture the child’s learning by helping them assemble puzzles, play board games, construct with building toys, create art projects, read and learn letters, and develop number sense.

When parents nurture the growth of their preschoolers where the reward is the completion of an activity, the children can become capable learners who are passionate about life and expanding their abilities. Carol Dweck’s growth mindset research and Mindsets and Moves by Gravity Goldberg provide extensive examples on how teachers and parents can prepare their children for new learning situations.

A presentation to parents might include these four A’s of growth mindset:

  1. Approach: How to scaffold learning situations that are relevant to the child’s ability.
  2. Apply: How to help the child apply prior learning successes to new obstacles and promote self-efficacy.
  3. Assess: How to teach the child to reflect on the outcome of a learning experience to ensure further growth.
  4. Achieve: How to prepare the child to achieve their next learning opportunity through growth mindset.

Parents can help their preschoolers achieve successes in daily life when they introduce growth mindset though loving and supportive guidance.

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Written by

Mary Ann Burke is the co-founder of the Generational Parenting Blog. Dr. Burke presents effective parenting and school engagement strategies at numerous state and national parent engagement events. She creates Common Core State Standards kits and S.T.E.A.M. activities for parents to use at home and in their child’s classroom to support children’s literacy and academic readiness skills. Dr. Burke is an author or editor of four Corwin Press Books on parent and community engagement in schools. Mary Ann is an active grandmother of five grandchildren that include seven month old twin granddaughters, a four year old preschool grandson, a six-year-old kindergarten granddaughter, and a nine year old third grade grandson. She supports her grandchildren’s literacy and academic development activity play at home and at their schools. Mary Ann is a credentialed parent educator for over thirty years in California’s schools and a former adjunct professor. Dr. Burke previously led the Santa Clara County Office of Education’s Parent Engagement Initiative that is a state model for best practices in parent engagement for culturally diverse families.

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