Games to Teach Children to Be Encouragers
When children are encouraging to others, they provide positive feedback that recognizes strengths and promotes effort, rather than criticizing or trying to control. Encouraging statements are "I think you can do it" and "You're a hard worker," rather than "Let me help you" or "If you do this, you can do better next time." Children who have good self-esteem and who are confident and positive are natural encouragers. You can nurture an encouraging nature by building self-esteem and playing games and exercises that help children learn the language of encouragement 2.
At home or in the classroom, you can ask children in the group to write down their name at the top of a piece of paper. They will then pass their paper to the person on their right, and that person will write down one or more positive things about that child, such as "You're a good friend" or "You try really hard at soccer." Continue passing the papers until everyone has written something about everyone else. Collect the papers and read them to ensure that no one has been a prankster and written something unkind. Then hand the papers back and let children see the nice things people have said about them. Writing the statements down instead of saying them out loud will encourage children who are not confident to participate.
Encouragement is key to working together. Play a game by hiding several objects around the room and asking children to work in pairs to find them. One child should be responsible for finding the objects, and the other child should be responsible for encouraging him to find them. The goal isn't to point out where the objects are or to play a game of "hotter/colder," but to encourage the child to find the objects. Statements might include, "You can do it" or "You're doing your best. Where can you look next?" Step in where necessary to model encouraging statements.
Children should try to be encouragers all the time, but it can be hard to monitor them throughout the day. A game that will make this easy is to give each child a strand of bands that they can wear as a necklace or a bracelet. When they say something encouraging to another child, they give away one of their beads. At the end of the day, ask the children to show you their beads to ensure that everyone has a mix of colors. Then talk about the encouraging things their peers said to them.
Because children must have confidence and self-esteem to be good encouragers, children who are timid or sensitive to criticism might not perform well in these games. You can provide alternatives to makes these children more comfortable. For example, instead of being asked to say something encouraging to another child, the student can write it down in a note and place it anonymously in a makeshift mail box. Working on building self-esteem is essential to helping these children ultimately succeed, and that means making encouraging statements yourself at home or in the classroom.
- Barnabas in Schools: Barnabas the Encourager: Making a Difference
- Youth Group Games: Encouragement Game
- The International Child and Youth Care Network: The Tools of Encouragement
- KidsHealth: Developing Your Child's Self-Esteem
- Early Childhood News: Offering Children Choices: Encouraging Autonomy and Learning while Minimizing Conflicts
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