Kindergarten is the first step into education, where various talents and difficulties of a child emerge to the surface. Some elementary students follow the class almost without struggling, whereas others tend to give up by facing the smallest obstacles. Some of them enjoy learning and take it as just another game, while for others, it means suffering and frustration.
According to research, the factor underlying these differences is called mindset.
Carol Dweck defines, there are two types of mindsets – fixed and growth mindsets. A person with a fixed mindset believes that success depends solely on innate talents and intelligence as rigid constructs, impossible to change by no means.
People with fixed mindsets are prone to avoid challenges and give up, strongly believing that they are not in control.
In contrast, people with a growth mindset have more trust in themselves, believe that they are capable to change their resources with hard work, and can develop their own abilities and talents with effort and perseverance.
Our mindset directly impacts our perception. It impacts how we see any situation, as well as the filter we view it from. In other words, two people looking at the same situation can see two very different things. One can see something that is very enjoyable while another can see a situation as a problem or a challenge.
Changing ones mindset, is most certainly achievable but why not help your child form the best possible mindset right from the start?
Why is it important to teach a growth mindset to children while they’re young?
As science has already proven, we learn throughout our entire life. However, very young children are in a development stage that absorbs a massive amount of new information from their environment, and people around them.
Elementary students tend to learn faster than adults. Children are constantly absorbing new information, patterns, behaviors, mindsets and responses that they acquire through observing those around them. A young brain is more receptive, as it is given a task to take in as much as possible and get ready for the big world.
Because of this heightened receptive stage, by the time a child enters kindergarten they have reached an extremely effective age to form the habits, as well as the behavioral and thought patterns.
Besides, we shouldn’t forget that kids are true explorers. They are given the natural gift of curiosity. It is one of the strongest drives especially in the kindergarten and early school years, enabling students to explore the world through their environment and to learn.
This is one of the biggest resources the children of this age have – natural love of learning. If nourished correctly, this ability will grow into a personal trait and will serve as a resource to alleviate the difficulties in the future.
Contributing factors to develop a growth mindset for kindergarten
Learning through trial and error might be quite annoying for us as adults, but for children, it’s one of the central ways to learn. A growth mindset is basically the training of patience and the skill of learning by trial and error.
Kids naturally know that failing doesn’t mean the end. For them, it means they must keep on experimenting or giving another challenging game a try. This is a wonderful quality to encourage in a child.
Kindergarten is also the ideal age for developing the first sense of self-beliefs. How we perceive ourselves, what we think of ourselves and the value we place upon ourselves all stem from this developmental stage in our life. Nurturing a child’s self esteem, and helping them to see themselves as a capable, powerful, confident child is so empowering. Not only will this help them in this state of life, they will build upon these foundational belief systems for years to come.
Shaping a child’s Self-Image
A child’s self-image will continue to expand and grow based upon the foundations that are formed at this early stage in childhood. Which is exactly why it’s essential to nurture their self image and shape their mindset in a healthy way. It will be one of the best gifts you could ever offer them.
Early implemented growth mindsets remain ingrained much longer, it helps build resilience, confidence, and kindness in children, and in many children the confidence they gain in early childhood still has a positive impact in the classroom in much later school years.
Early childhood, is the best time for implementing the growth mindset culture, which should be embraced and used as much as possible. Elementary students, have unbelievable abilities to absorb, learn and grow with a remarkable sense of open-mindedness that becomes much harder to find later in life.
Young children don’t come with set belief systems, they aren’t born with judgements, or opinions, those come from gathered experiences, observations, and learning from the environment which they are raised.
How incredible would it be to offer your child the opportunity to form the strongest self belief, self confidence and unshakable faith in all that they believed they were capable of before anyone or anything ever told them they couldn’t?
How do you teach a growth mindset to kindergarteners?
To teach growth mindset to Kindergarten students is challenging, but it contains a lot of fun. Here are some tips for the teachers.
Before you engage in teaching growth mindset, you might need to focus on yourself first, get rid of the fixed mindset, and develop a growth mindset for your own use. You can use the examples from your personal experience to encourage the students to use their resources for their own growth.
Watch the child during different states and activities. What do they like? Where do they struggle? Do they frustrate easily? You’ll need all this information in planning the right strategies for future mindset-building. It’s important to mention that the observation stage also involves respecting students’ space, giving time, and being patient.
Motivate the students by seeing themselves as role models
Remind them of just how capable they are, and all that they have already learned in such a short amount of time. Help them see what an intelligent child they are. Focus on what they are naturally good at, so they can build the confidence to try something that may be more challenging at first. Offer them many opportunities to embrace positive self-talk.
After all, each and every person has an internal conversation with themselves each and every day. Build the habit of encouraging, positive self talk.
Teach them that the feedback is not a criticism
Children, just like many adults, may interpret any comment as criticism. Explain to the child that feedback, positive as well as negative can be a great resource to learn how to achieve something in a better, faster or easier way.
No matter how great anyone becomes at something, there will always be room for improvement. Help them see that this is not a reason to feel “not good enough” but instead an opportunity to never be limited in how great they can become.
Teach kids about the brain and how it works.
Explain to the child that the brain is a muscle, that learning is an exercise, and that the more exercise the brain does, the more power it will gain and the easier the further tasks will be.
Teach a growth mindset by demonstrating that it’s ok to make mistakes
Communicate that mistakes, failure, and frustration and normalize them. Explain that all of these are completely normal and nothing to fear. Try to help kids understand that “failure” and “mistakes” aren’t negative or scary words. Show them that failing means learning and by persistence, they will achieve their personal goal and often times surpass them.
Explain the fixed and growth mindsets.
Think of the examples from you or your child’s experience to show how the fixed and growth mindsets differ from each other and which feelings or tendencies they cause in a person.
Focus on the learning experience that is within each and every situation. Children may not find the word “learning” as exciting as perhaps “discovering”. As a parent, teacher, or caregiver you can help the child become engaged in seeing the opportunity within each and every challenge.
Help them form the mindset habit of looking for the good in each and every situation. This allows them to shift their focus from one that is intent on seeing the problem to one that is looking for the solution.
Ways to Prevent developing a fixed mindset
Encourage them to see themselves as someone that is improving each and every day. They have the ability to use all of their natural talents while developing any other skills, talents or intelligence they decide they want to improve.
The truth is, if you really want to learn something there isn’t anything that can stop you and if you really don’t want to learn something there isn’t anything that can make you. That internal drive must come from within for each and every person.
Allow them to explore until they find what drives them to exceed their current level of understanding.
Support the growth mindset by modeling it for the children
Children are always observing and mirroring what others do in their environment. The people they look up to most, will play the biggest role in the mindset they mirror. The best way to encourage a mindset that you want your child to embrace, is for you to demonstrate those behaviors, responses and patterns that would help them most.
Children not only repeat everything they hear, but they begin to emulate everything that they see. This is how they learn at a very young age. You can demonstrate that you aren’t afraid to try something new, or work for something that is hard for you. You can use the sentences like “I haven’t learned how to do this yet”(intention to learn in the future) instead of “I don’t know how to do it” (by saying the latter you reinforce judgment – you can feel that it sounds like an unchangeable verdict).
Explain that now that you have achieved your goal through focus, commitment and working towards your goal hard work, you encourage your child to work towards something they really want to get the outcome they desire.
Power of yet
When the students start complaining about their inability to do something, always highlight the word “yet”. This magic word emphasizes that the child might not be proficient right now, but they have the resource to be an expert one day. The power of “Yet” motivates the students and encourages them to get back to the difficult task later and to try handling it in a more effective way.
Focus on the outcome of the goal as clearly as possible.
The clearer we are in the goals that we set for ourselves, and the more focused we can become on working towards that one outcome, the more likely it is that we will achieve it.
In a world that has so many distractions that are vying for your time and attention, choosing to remain focused on a set goal takes a certain type of commitment and will power that sharpens through practice.
Choosing to remain dedicated to an outcome because the end goal is what you have become dedicated to achieving is a skill that will last a lifetime.
It’s easy to become distracted, or give up when it becomes inconvenient or hard, but staying focused on the end goal and why you want it will help you stay dedicated to achieving it.
To avoid a desire for perfectionism, it’s important to see that growth often happens after we make a mistake or we found ourselves in a situation we didn’t like. As a result we naturally seek a better alternative, and we have more clarity about what to do differently next time.
To avoid this tendency in the students, follow the principle to praise the working process and good ideas as they work towards their goal. Students should often be reminded that we learn through effort and the result is just a reward.
Phrases like “I’m fascinated with how hard you’re working” or “I’m proud of you” boost confidence in your child. You can reward hard work with stickers stating “I learn from my mistakes”, “I am always learning” “My mind is always expanding”, etc.
Avoid praising the talent alone.
Instead, praise effort and the development of a new skill they didn’t have before. Try to remember your childhood. You have definitely witnessed how, on the one hand, the peers who were “talented” as elementary students started to frustrate and stagnate as the school got harder, and on the other hand, the peers who always had to take a “harder path”, developed perseverance through their stubbornness.
Children should be told that talent, without hard work, doesn’t bring much and is not a guarantee that all the tasks in life will be easy for them. They must learn how to remain committed to a task. You can explain to them that talent indeed is a gift, but it’s like a plant that will only survive if we take good care of it. If we don’t water the plant regularly and persistently, we will lose it, just as we will lose a talent without persistently training it.
As mentioned above, a growth mindset, developing the love of learning, builds a simpler path towards the learning process and prevents difficulties in the school period and after.
Avoid negative labels
Negative labels, that a child identifies with will remain with them much longer than one would typically think. This results in limited beliefs and consequently, limited skills later in life.
Improving the child’s self-image is incredibly important and will add to their self esteem, self confidence and belief in their ability to adapt and accomplish anything they want in life.
Reorganize your vocabulary
In order to teach a growth mindset to children, teachers should acquire new vocabulary, free of pessimistic or any other tough statements.
-Instead of “This task is too hard” try to say “this task will just take more practice”
-Instead of “I can’t do math”, say “I can learn anything and I will become better at math each day”
Teachers can create their own list of growth mindset statements and use them in different situations to let the kids learn how to exercise their mindset.
Strengthen the growth mindset with fun activities
For example, ask the kids to draw or write what they like about themselves, or ask them to remember when they were proud of themselves. Teachers can also create worksheets that have positive affirmations for children, that they can fill out themselves with affirmations such as “I can do whatever I set my mind to” or “my brain grows every time I learn something new”, or some encouraging sentences like “I can’t write my name yet”(remember the power of yet?).
You can also ask them to write down what they can already do vs what they can’t do yet (or what they want to learn to do). You can put these sheets up on the wall so that the children have a chance to be reminded about their strengths, achievements, and goals every day.
Create a positive journal
Create a similar daily routine to support students be more mindful about themselves. Encourage and help the children develop healthy coping strategies, encourage and form a growth mindset, self confidence, self-love, gratitude, and resilience in a fun way.
Demonstrate how small everyday activities can grow a habit that will make things easier in the close future. Implement the step-by-step principle to lower the frustration level and keep the child inspired instead of overwhelmed by the expectation.
Teacher Tips: Fun ideas to teach growth mindset for kindergarten
There are many growth mindset activities that can be used for encouraging growth mindset. Helping children hear other students speak kind things about them can be another great way to assist them in forming positive self talk and instill a growth mindset in your children. You can encourage each child to participate in engaging activities.
One fun activity that children enjoy is to go around the room and say one positive thing about each child. This allows the children to look for the good and find the very best in someone while also listening to so many wonderful things about themself.
Another fun activity to encourage greater happiness is to list amazing things on a bulletin board that the whole class can see about what you love about all of your students. You can change it each month to offer the class some examples of what students did really well that you want to promote in your classroom.
You can give them some ideas that you hope to inspire them with. For instance what is one example of success, or goal setting or something that gives them hope.
Start fostering these strategies in your growth mindset lessons, enjoy the process and learn with your students.
Kids are naturally very receptive as they observe and watch those in their environment. It is important to find ways to empower children to form these positive beliefs about themselves as early as possible so they can have a rock solid foundation to build upon well into adult hood.
Give them the very best tools one can possibly receive as you help them shape a positive self image of just how capable they really are.