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Preschoolers soak up new information and new experiences at a remarkable rate. Taking risks is an integral part of learning and they must be encouraged to explore their environment, inside and outside, where they will learn a great deal about their world and themselves.

Encouraging Smart Risk-Taking

  1. Provide opportunities for children to choose their own activities.
  2. Redirect unsafe play by providing a safer alternative.
  3. Trial-and-error can be useful, but frustrating. Always provide time for practice.
  4. Encourage shy children to participate in group activities, allowing them to set their own pace.

Practice can help take the anxiety out of trying new things, especially when children can see that repeating a task or an activity can increase their skill level. Try the activities below to help your students see the value of practice.


Note: This song can be downloaded onto a CD or can be played from your computer.

Print copies of the Building Blocks “Power Positive” activity, at least one for each child to take home. Also, create a list of partners, pairing a more outgoing child with one who is a little less outgoing in order to build confidence.


  1. Gather the students together and ask them the following questions:
    • Name some of the things you know how to do. (Answers will vary, but may include tie my shoes, throw a ball, run fast, count to 100, hop on one foot.)
    • How does this accomplishment make you feel about yourself? (Answers will vary, but may include happy, proud, big, smart, and strong.)
    • Of the things you are learning to do, what do you want to do better?”

  2. List students’ responses on the chart paper.

  3. Then, divide the class according to the pairs you created earlier and ask each team to talk about things they can do. Each partner must tell the other three things he or she has learned to do. (For younger students, you may need to go around and help the children complete the task and/or have them talk about only one thing they can do.)

  4. Have each pair stand. First, ask the more outgoing child to say what the other’s skills are; then, ask the shyer child to talk about his or her partner. Afterwards, ask volunteers to respond: What have you learned about your partner?

  5. Next, start a group discussion about what they think their partners could do to get even better at their named activity. (Answers will vary, but may include practice, keep doing it over and over, ask someone to show them how to get better.)

  6. Distribute the Activity Sheet, "Put a Smile on My Face," (DOC 27KB) and the art supplies. Tell the children to think of something they would like to learn how to do, or that they want to do better. Help the children write their wishes for themselves on the lines at the bottom of the page. Then, have the children draw into the outline of the face how they will feel when they accomplish their goal. Play the “Power Positive” song from the Building Blocks music CD while they are drawing.

  7. Send home the completed Activity Sheet, so that parents will know their child’s wishes and can help him or her practice and gain expertise.

Going Further:
Send home the “Power Positive” (PDF 2.03MB) page from the Building Blocks Activity Book (page 16). Ask parents to help their children measure their skill level twice—now and one week from now after a week’s worth of practice. Ask the students to share something from their week’s achievements with the group.


Safe Exploring for Preschoolers” urges parents to encourage exploration in very young children while offering suggestions of what to keep in mind when they do.

Developing Your Child’s Self-Esteem” describes the importance of allowing children to try even if they fail in order to help them develop positive, healthy self-perceptions.
I Can Do It Myself: Encouraging Independence in Young Children” shares the importance of allowing children to test their independence as they try new things.

Encouraging a Shy Preschooler to Participate” provides helpful suggestions for engaging shy children to help them open up to new experiences.

Helping a Child Who’s Afraid To Take Risks” provides parent and educators with helpful tips to help risk-averse children meet new challenges.

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Updated on 1/16/2013