Children have a lot to learn about the world (don’t we all?), and preschool is a safe, nurturing environment to begin to grasp big, important concepts. Along with reading, writing, math, science, art, music, dance, and social studies, we focus on character development at UDA Creative Arts Preschool.
Most children don’t naturally have the skills of gratitude, patience, responsibility, courage, and more. Just like learning shapes, letters, and numbers, these character traits need to be taught in gentle, patient ways.
At UDA Preschool, the puppet Tiki helps us introduce our monthly character trait to the children.
Each week, our teacher knocks at Tiki’s house while the children ask, “Tiki, are you home?” Sometimes she’s home, and sometimes she’s off exploring, but has left a clue as to what’s happening that week.
She also has a guest house next to her home. Each month a new puppet moves into her guest house, and teaches the children about a new character trait. Kindness, Courage, Respect, and more will all take up temporary residence in Tiki’s guest house throughout the year.
With the help of Tiki and her guest puppet, we discuss character traits and their importance.
During the month of October, Tiki introduced Courage to the children. We have been learning that courage doesn’t mean you have to be perfect at something before you can try. You just have to have courage to try new things.
And preschool is the perfect learning ground for trying new things. Every day, the children are given new opportunities — maybe they’re offered a new food during snack time, maybe a new animal comes to visit for the day, maybe they’re asked to write letters that are hard to form, maybe they’ll do a science experiment, maybe they need to share a toy with a new friend, maybe they will be given the opportunity to stand in front of the class and share about themselves on their special day.
The children even get to encourage others to have courage. In September, we brought caterpillars into the classroom, and observed as they turned into chrysalises, and finally to butterflies. Now, during the month of courage, the butterflies are ready to live their lives outside.
When we released the butterflies, the children shouted things like, “You can do it!” and “Have courage!” We cheered when the butterflies finally found their courage and took flight.
How You Can Encourage Courage in Your Preschooler
Like all character traits, courage is something that can be taught. Use these ideas to encourage courage in your preschooler.
You knew this would come up, didn’t you? Children learn to follow what they see. That means you have to muster up your own courage, and let your child see it. If it’s difficult for you to talk to a new person, take a deep breath and go over and introduce yourself. Later, tell your child it was hard, but you did it. Let your child see that not everything comes easy to you, but you’re willing to try.
Don’t Fix Every Problem
Step back a little, and let your child problem-solve. (Problem solving is another character trait we learn at UDA Preschool!) At this age, that might mean letting your child come up with a solution for how to share a toy, struggle to zip a coat, wipe up spilled milk, or clean up the toys. It’s okay to step in and help when your child needs you — they are still developing and learning new skills, after all — but challenge yourself to wait a few beats before rescuing your child. You might be surprised at how much your child can accomplish on her own.
Talk About Courageous Acts
Regularly discussing courage will allow your child to feel more courageous while seeing more opportunities to step outside their comfort zone. Consider asking your child to tell you about a courageous thing they did or witnessed. Think of your own courageous acts from the day, and share them too.
Use a Mantra
Incorporate a mantra about courage into your day. This can then be something your child can use when he’s feeling nervous. “I have courage,” “I can do hard things,” and “I can be brave” are all simple enough that your child can recall and rely on them when faced with something tough.
When you see your child take a courageous step, no matter how small, make sure to comment on it.
“I noticed you waved when our neighbor said hi” can help a shy child feel more confident in interacting with other people.
“That was great when you climbed on the new structure at the playground” can help a child feel more confident in her physical abilities.
“I’m so proud of you for standing in front of the class and sharing about your favorite stuffed animal” can help a child know they can do hard things.
We’ll be encouraging courage all month long at UDA Creative Arts Preschool. Be sure to talk about it with your child!