5 Ways to Increase a Child's Self-Esteem

Childcare Environments

5 Ways to Increase a Child’s Self-Esteem

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It’s concerning to hear recent reports saying children as young as three have low self-esteem and are worried about their physical appearance. Instead of focusing on exploring the world and having fun, they’re more worried others will think they’re fat or ugly.

As a parent or carer, it’s heartbreaking to wonder if a child within your care has had the same thoughts. You see them as kind and selfless, someone who does their best to be a good person, while struggling with their own emotions and changes.

Reports like these make parents and Early Years workers wonder if they’re doing enough to support children. There’s no clear answer, but helping them build a strong self-esteem is a great start.

Low self-esteem impacts a child’s confidence and holds them back from trying new things. As children grow, they need constant support from loved ones to build a healthy self-esteem. Knowing they are loved and belong to a family or nursery group who values them, is vital.

Here are five ways to show a child that they’re worth more than just their physical appearance.

Provide Choices

As an adult, it’s difficult to make decisions that’ll have an impact long afterwards. Help children build their decision making skills by allowing them to make some harmless choices throughout the day.

Give them a choice of which toy to play with first. Let them pick which bed covers they’d like. Give them a choice of socks or Pyjamas. Let them choose which shopping centre or playground to visit.

Allowing a child some reasonable control over their environment helps to build their confidence.

If they want to say “no” to wearing a jumper after you’ve explained it’s cold, honour their decision. Give them the chance to learn from their mistake and to make a different choice next time.

Also, talk to them when you make your own mistakes, “I made a mistake but it’s okay. First, I’m going to clean this up and then I’ll try again.”

early years worker helping child

Providing some reasonable control over their environment helps to build their confidence. They’ll be excited about making choices and get practise thinking through them properly too. They’ll also learn mistakes aren’t as bad as they feel; you’re there to support them if it goes wrong and they can always make a different choice next time.

Everyone is Valuable

Be realistic about compliments. If a child in your care is upset about something another child is better at, acknowledge their emotions by saying, “I know you’re upset they’re better at bouncing a ball, but I know you’re a faster runner than they are. Everyone has different things they’re great at.”

This teaches that everyone has strengths and challenges and are just as important as each other. It also shifts their focus to what they can control instead of seeing it as a competition.

EYFS Developmental Milestones – Download Free eBook

EYFS Developmental Milestones

Realistic Reinforcements

When complimenting a child, make sure your statements are realistic and true.

You might think they’re the best singer in the world but when they forget the words or can’t match the notes, they won’t believe you. Like above, acknowledge their feelings are valid and normal, “I know you feel like you can’t sing the song properly, but you’re getting better every time you practise. You look like you have so much fun when you sing.”

New Experiences

Take children out to new places and to meet new people often. It might be difficult at first but with your support and positive reinforcement, you’ll help build their confidence. Each time they try something new, they’ll learn they have the courage and support to help them through it and most times it turns out to be fun.

Young children learn most from the people they’re closest to

If you’re nervous about a new experience, tell them, “I’m a little nervous there’s going to be lots of people there, but I’m going to try my best and I’m sure we’ll make some great friends and have lots of fun anyway.”

Get them involved in community activities and helping others; taking their chosen donations to a charity centre, taking in old towels or soft toys to an animal shelter. It shows they can make a difference to others and that being kind and helpful is valuable.


Positive Role Models Increase Self-Esteem

The most important support you can provide is leading by example.

Show them you exercise to keep your body strong and healthy, not because you want to lose weight.

Compliment yourself in front of them, “my arms are strong enough to carry and cuddle you,” or “my eyes are so sparkly in the light.”

Young children learn most from the people they’re closest to. If the adults around them are overly concerned about appearances, they’ll think it’s normal and they’ll copy.

Let them make choices, support them through their mistakes, and show them that being confident and kind are what people value most, and you’ll be helping to boost their self-esteem every step of the way.

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