Activities that Teach Children About Patience

By Nicole Schmoll

“Patience is a virtue” is a statement that children have been hearing from their parents for decades. It’s a statement that adults make to each other when they experience another individual displaying a lack of patience. The statement is a subtle reminder that patience is learned, not necessarily inborn. Modeling patience for your kids on a consistent basis is an effective teaching method. It's also helpful to use activities that help kids practice the art of patience.

Choosing Patience

Set up a simple activity to teach the benefits of patience and delayed gratification. Offer a small toy to each of your children, telling them that they can take the toy now or that they can wait until after lunch or dinner. Tell your kids that this toy is nice, but that it might be better to wait until later to claim it. Distract your children away from the toy with a different activity, but ask them at least one more time whether they want the toy now or they prefer to keep waiting until later. If any child opts to have the toy immediately, give it to him right away. At the designated time, set the initial toy aside and offer a nicer toy to the kids who chose to wait. Explain that patience pays off and that in life, there are many times when you will have a choice between getting something good immediately or waiting for a bigger reward such as a better job, bigger promotion or bigger financial payoff.

Patience Games

One of the main reasons children whine is because they want a toy, treat or activity immediately and don’t like it when they have to wait to get what they want. Simple patience games can help children learn to practice waiting for what they want without whining for it. Classics like “Red Rover” and “Red Light, Green Light” teach children to listen, follow instructions and wait, all important aspects of patience. In Red Rover, children are split into two lines on opposite sides of a room. Teams take turns saying “Red Rover, Red Rover, send (child’s name) over.” Children must try to break through the lines and wait for their names to be called to do so. In “Red Light, Green Light” children must only walk or run when a teacher says “Green Light!” and must stop when the teacher says “Red Light.”

Practice Patience

Remember that little ones have short attention spans, making them more prone to impatience than adults. Model patience to your children by speaking calmly to them when they are frustrated and helping them practice alternatives to impatience. Role-play practicing patience together. Play a game with your child like “dolls,” “cars” or “heroes vs. aliens.” Have some of the toys be impatient and others be patient. Act out impatience and then act out other characters, dolls or toys showing patience. Help your child role-play both patience and impatience and talk about why patience is better.

Project Patience

Build something or do a craft with your child. Pick a project that your child will enjoy and wants to participate in but which you also know will stretch your child’s limits and challenge him either physically, mentally or both. Build a train set together, put a kite together and fly it, learn how to ride a bike, build a birdhouse or cut out intricate snowflakes. Watch your child during the exercise for cues that he is becoming frustrated or impatient. Stress the importance of getting the project completed but not in a certain time. Help your child work through his impatience and not give up on the project until it is complete. When you are done, talk about what it took to complete the task and how you helped each other and had to work patiently to enjoy the fun at the end.