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Parents

4 Tips to Build Confidence on the Playground

Dr. Allison Mell, DPT
December 29, 2022
4 Tips to Build Confidence on the Playground

Whether it is a hot summer day, lovely spring weather, or a chilly fall moment, you get yourself geared up ready to hit the park with your child. No matter the weather, you are looking for a little break and I see you! You are ready to let your child run around, jump, climb, slide, and swing til their heart’s content while you sit back and know that they are releasing all of their built up energy.  However, when you arrive, your child is sticking pretty close to you, preferring to observe from the sidelines rather than jump into the fun.

If this sounds all too familiar, don’t panic!  This hesitation is actually more common than you may think. 

 

Here are some tips to help your child navigate the playground while building confidence and independence.

1.  SLOWLY LETTING GO OF YOUR HAND

Does your child have some reservations going down the slide alone at the park? Does "Mommy, come slide with me!" sound familiar?

Try this: On the slide, encourage your child to climb up the slide from the bottom. This will help her feel more in control of how high she goes. As your child slowly begins to feel more comfortable, she can climb higher and higher on the slide. Closely spotting along the way can add to the confidence boost- your presence can make all the difference at this stage.

2.  CONFIDENCE WITH HEIGHTS

Heights can present a whole new challenge for kids as they are both perceiving and negotiating a big and tall new world. When they conquer new heights they are re-learning how to move, strengthen and balance. 

 

Try this:  Have your child practice jumping off low surfaces around the park like a balance beam or step so he feels successful landing safely.  Then, slowly encourage him to stand or climb on higher platforms, letting him know you’re right there to help if needed!

3.  INDEPENDENCE WITH CLIMBING

“”Mommy! Can you help me get up there!”  Mommy hold my hand!” “Mommy push me up!” Sound familiar? Climbing can be scary and challenging as your child learns to coordinate her arms and legs to reach her climbing goal. She may avoid trying independently, because she knows  it’s easier to ask for help. However,  with more practice and a confidence boost (not a mom boost!), she’ll get there soon and you can relax on the bench (well, maybe for a second…) 

 

Try this: Talk through the steps of what your child has to do to reach her goal. "Place your foot on that bar" "Turn your body around" etc. This can help build your child's motor planning skills and let her know she's not alone even if you're not physically helping her. If your child absolutely insists on your help, try placing only one hand on her body-on her arms, back, hips, or bottom.  Slowly lighten the pressure of your hand to lessen your support to encourage her to use her own strength and motor planning skills to reach the top. Keep lessening the amount of pressure you give and let her know, “you almost did that all by yourself!”

4.  TRYING NEW THINGS

The unknown is scary and sometimes something as simple as swinging on the belt swing for the first time can be intimidating.  

 

“What if I fall?”  

“What if the swing breaks?”  

“What if I get going too fast?” 

“How will I hold on?”

“Can I just go back to the baby swing”

 

 Well, you get the picture… There is much that can be left to your child’s imagination because this is SO new. And think about it, when you experience new things it can be really scary too! 

Try this: When you start heading to the park, strike up a conversation with your child to help them think of one new thing that he’d like to try.  It could be hanging on a monkey bar for 3 seconds, trying out the belt swing, or running around the perimeter of the park as fast as he can without stopping.  Getting him excited about trying new things and encouraging him to attempt even just one new activity each time, big or small, will help him feel like he can accomplish anything that he sets his mind to (and he can!).

After the park, remember to praise him for trying something new – “You did a great job hanging on the monkey bar for 3 seconds today!  Even though you were a bit nervous, you did it!  What are you going to try when we go back to the park tomorrow?”

 

Bottom line, our children are capable of so much more than they may realize.  Offering your support as a parent, but also gradually lessening the amount of assistance you give will help them gain more confidence, leading to greater independence.

 

Feel like you can use to more tips to help your child build strength, balance, and motor planning skills? You're not the only one, which is why I created the Tots On Target Membership. The membership is a place where parents can find tons of resources to help their children reach milestone goals and get direct support from me through each phase of development from birth through kindergarten.

 

Dr. Allison Mell is the founder of Tots on Target and a physical therapist based out of New Jersey.

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