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Cultivating Confidence: 10 Self-Esteem Activities for Children

Building a strong foundation of self-esteem and confidence is essential for a child’s overall growth, development, and mental health. As parents, caregivers, and educators, we can help children and encourage students to embrace positive thinking, believe in their abilities, learn self-love, and appreciate their uniqueness. In this blog, we will explore a range of engaging and effective activities designed to empower children with the tools they need to build self-esteem and navigate the world with self-assurance and positivity.

Does your child need professional support in improving their self-esteem and building confidence? Find an Ellie location near you and get matched with a therapist that can help.

Positive Affirmations for Children

Positive affirmations are powerful statements about positive qualities that help children learn to replace negative thoughts or self-doubt with confidence and optimism. Parents, teachers, or caregivers can help children repeat these positive statements daily to combat self-esteem issues and build the child’s confidence.

When children get in trouble for bad behavior or struggle to perform as well as they’d like to in school or other activities, they might start to think or verbalize thoughts like:

  • I’ll never get good grades because I’m just not smart enough.
  • I never listen. I’m just a bad kid.
  • I wish I could be as good as my sister at sports. She’s always better than me.
  • I hate how my eyes look. I’m so ugly.
  • If I mess up this art project, it will look horrible and my teacher will be upset with me.

These negative thoughts can become self-fulfilling prophecies, causing children to self-sabotage, stop putting effort into activities they think they’ll fail at, or stop trying new things altogether. These negative self-perceptions can also contribute to mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety in children.

Positive self-talk is an intentional and effective way to foster greater self-esteem and change a child’s thoughts and beliefs about themselves – which, in turn, will transform their actions as well.

Positive affirmations are usually spoken or written in the present tense, such as:

  • I am smart, and I can learn new things every day.
  • I am kind and caring, and my actions make a difference.
  • I am unique and special, and that’s amazing!
  • I am brave and can try things even if they’re hard at first.
  • I am loved by family and friends just the way I am.
  • I am capable of trying my best and achieving great things.
  • I am a good friend, and I treat others with respect and kindness.
  • I am creative and have a great imagination.
  • I am enough. I believe in myself and my abilities.

You can establish a routine with children to practice saying positive affirmations or encourage them as a coping activity when they’re feeling down or disappointed. To help make the process more fun and memorable for children, you can try the following activities:  

  • Affirmation mirror: Have the child stand in front of the mirror and repeat positive affirmations about themselves.
  • Affirmation bracelets: Create bead bracelets with your child that have a positive statement or word on it.
  • Affirmation jar: Have your child write a positive saying on a piece of paper every morning and put it in a jar.
  • Affirmation artwork: Incorporate positive affirmations into a drawing, painting, or other art piece.
  • Affirmation sticky notes: Have a wall or board where the child can place and view positive affirmations.

Role-Playing Activities for Self-Esteem

Role-playing is an interactive and imaginative activity that can help children to explore and practice social and emotional skills, express themselves, build self-assuredness, and develop a deeper understanding of themselves and others. Here are some role-playing activities that are focused on building self-esteem:

  • Empowerment Scenarios: Create scenarios where the child takes on empowered roles, such as a superhero, a brave explorer, or a confident leader. Encourage them to embody these characters and face challenges with courage and determination.
  • Handling Conflict: Role-play situations involving conflicts or difficult interactions. Guide the child in using assertive communication and problem-solving skills to resolve conflicts positively. This can help them feel more confident in handling real-life conflicts.
  • Expressing Emotions: Create scenarios where the child can freely express a range of emotions, such as joy, anger, or fear — or create self-esteem worksheets. This helps them develop emotional intelligence and feel more comfortable with their emotions.
  • Asserting Boundaries: Role-play situations where the child needs to set boundaries with peers or adults. This activity can empower them to stand up for themselves and their needs.
  • Public Speaking: Encourage older children to role-play giving a presentation or speech on a topic they are passionate about. This can boost their confidence in public speaking and self-expression.
  • Solving Everyday Problems: Role-play everyday scenarios, such as getting lost in a new place, learning a new skill, or making a difficult decision. This helps the child develop problem-solving skills and feel more capable in challenging situations.
  • Cultural Understanding: Role-play scenarios involving interactions with individuals from different cultures or backgrounds. This can foster empathy and open-mindedness, enhancing the child’s sense of acceptance and self-awareness.

For parents or adults facilitating these role-playing activities, set the scene for the kids and let their imagination take the lead. Some children might feel shy or have difficulty with the activity at first, but make sure to provide positive reinforcement and encouragement throughout the process. Acknowledge the child’s efforts and creative thinking, reinforcing their strengths and unique qualities.

Age-Appropriate Chores and Tasks

When children contribute to household responsibilities, they develop a sense of competence, responsibility, and accomplishment. However, it’s important that adults consider the child’s age, physical abilities, and cognitive development when choosing chores and tasks to assign to their child.

Additionally, it’s likely that children will resist these new tasks at first, especially younger children who can be easily overwhelmed by seemingly simple tasks. Rather than yell or resort to disciplinary action when children are first learning these skills, adults should remain patient, understand their child might need guidance, and use positive reinforcement and encouragement to help foster confidence and self-esteem.

Here is a general guide to age-appropriate chores for children:

Preschoolers (Ages 2-4)

  • Putting away toys and books after playtime
  • Helping set the table for meals
  • Assisting in feeding pets with adult supervision
  • Wiping up spills with a cloth or paper towel
  • Throwing away trash in designated bins
  • Watering plants (with assistance)

Early Elementary (Ages 5-7)

  • Making their bed in the morning
  • Sorting laundry into dark and light colors
  • Cleaning their play area and organizing toys
  • Assisting with simple meal prep, like washing vegetables or stirring ingredients
  • Helping with pet care tasks, such as feeding, watering, and clean-up

Late Elementary (Ages 8-10)

  • Making their bed and tidying their bedroom regularly
  • Folding and putting away their clothes
  • Vacuuming or sweeping floors with supervision
  • Helping prepare simple meals or snacks with guidance
  • Taking out the trash and recycling
  • Assisting with yard work, like raking leaves or weeding (light tasks)

Preteens (Ages 11-12)

  • Cleaning their room and organizing belongings
  • Doing laundry (with guidance for settings and detergent)
  • Assisting with cooking meals under supervision
  • Washing dishes and loading/unloading the dishwasher
  • Taking care of pets (feeding, walking, grooming)
  • Assisting with grocery shopping and creating lists

Team Sports and Exercise for Confidence Building

Engaging in physical activity not only has amazing benefits for your child’s health, but it also contributes to emotional well-being and self-confidence. However, how parents approach sports performance is critical. Overemphasizing performance or focusing solely on winning can have a harmful effect on children’s esteem. Rather, adults should encourage children to find activities they love, be supportive, emphasize effort and improvement, and create an inclusive environment for kids of all skill levels.

There are many benefits of encouraging kids to participate in sports and exercise including:

  • Skill development and mastery: Sports give children an opportunity to practice and master various skills. As they improve and have fun in the process, they gain a sense of accomplishment and build self-confidence in other areas of their life.
  • Teamwork and social skills: Many sports involve teamwork and cooperation, teaching children to work together, communicate effectively, and support their teammates.
  • Body image and self-acceptance: Sports and exercise help children learn to appreciate their bodies for their capabilities and strengths rather than focusing solely on appearance.
  • Stress relief and mood boost: Regular exercise is a natural stress reliever and releases endorphins, helping children to manage negative emotions and improve their overall well-being.
  • Resilience and coping skills: The reality is that no one wins every game or is successful from the get-go. Through sports, children face setbacks and learn to bounce back from defeats.  

Goals-Setting Activities for Kids

Empowering children to set meaningful goals and create visions for their future is a valuable skill that fosters personal growth and self-confidence. As caregivers and educators, adults play a crucial role in guiding children through this process, helping them to discover their passions, talents, and aspirations. Here are a few tips to help kids set and track their future goals and visions:

  • Teach kids about SMART goals: SMART Goals are objectives that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Using this method ensures your child is setting realistic and achievable goals.
  • Foster a growth mindset: Teach children that setting goals is not about being perfect from the start. It’s about making progress, putting in effort, and learning from failures.
  • Create a vision board: Help children identify their goals and aspirations for the future with a vision board. Use pictures, drawings, and words that represent what they are working for, and hang them up in their room as a constant reminder of their dreams and what motivates them to take action.

Daily Activities to Cultivate Gratitude in Kids

Intentionally incorporating gratitude into your child’s daily routine can help them to have a more positive outlook toward life, learn contentment, stop comparing, and help counteract negative thoughts or perceptions. There are several activities parents and teachers can facilitate to help children practice thankfulness every day:

  • Gratitude journal: Encourage children to keep a gratitude journal where they write down things they are thankful for every day in the morning or before going to bed at night.
  • Thank you cards: Have kids create thank you cards for people who have done something kind for them or made a difference in their lives. This activity teaches them to express appreciation and reflect on people they’re thankful for.
  • Gratitude circle: Gather your family or a group of children in a class setting to form a gratitude circle. Each person takes a turn sharing something they are thankful for. You can also make this a routine before eating meals or driving to school in the morning.
  • Gratitude jar: Set up a gratitude jar in the house. Encourage kids to write down things they are thankful for throughout the day and take time each week or month to read through the notes together.

Facilitating and Encouraging Acts of Kindness

Being generous and treating others with kindness help children to develop a sense of purpose and personal satisfaction – in addition to having a positive impact on the lives of others. Random acts of kindness help children to become more altruistic, empathize with others, build social skills, feel gratitude, and become more connected to their community. Children will learn that being kind to others feels good and that it can be rewarding to make others happy.

Some acts of kindness children can engage in (with help) include:

  • Complimenting a friend or family member for their accomplishments
  • Helping clean up a public area, such as a park, school, or neighborhood
  • Organizing a small fundraiser to support a charitable cause
  • Sharing or donating toys, books, or clothes to children in need
  • Serving at a food pantry, animal shelter, or other volunteer organization
  • Making something for a friend or family member who may be feeling down
  • Helping with chores or tasks at home without being asked

Building Emotional Awareness and Well-being in Children

Many children struggle to understand and manage their self-image and emotions. If a child is often overwhelmed by their feelings, they may start to believe they are inherently bad, especially if they are often reacted to harshly when they express their emotions poorly.

Teaching kids to understand and cope with their emotions effectively can help them to feel confident when faced with challenges or difficult feelings, and they will become less likely to engage in negative self-talk when faced with anger, sadness, fear, or disappointment.

A few ways parents and caregivers can help children to build emotional awareness and well-being include:

  • Emotion recognition: Help toddlers and younger children understand what different emotions look and feel like. Use emotions cards or drawings to represent different feelings and ask them to recognize similar emotions in themselves.
  • Emotional check-ins: Start each day or important moments with a quick emotional check-in. Ask children how they feel and why, providing a safe place for open expression. For older kids, you can keep a mood journal to help children track and reflect on their emotions.
  • Emotion charades: Play a game of emotion charades where children act out different emotions without using words.
  • Mindful breathing: Teach children simple breathing practices they can use to calm down when feeling overwhelmed.
  • Emotion thermometer: Create an emotion thermometer with different levels of intensity for various emotions. Children can point to the level that represents how they feel.
  • Mood wheel: Create a wheel with different colors and faces that represent each emotion, such as happy, sad, angry, afraid, nervous, bored, surprised, and unsure. Have your child identify how they’re feeling by pointing to the section that best represents how they’re feeling.

Recognizing and Celebrating Children’s Achievements

When your child works hard or succeeds at a difficult task, recognizing their achievement fosters a sense of accomplishment and builds positive self-esteem. Children naturally seek approval from their caregivers, teachers, and peers, and taking time to celebrate their successes gives them the confidence to continue striving for excellence.

A few ways to help children feel valued and celebrate their own achievements include:

  • Achievement collage: Collect images, photos, and other visual elements to celebrate and showcase your child’s successes. Encourage your child to identify the achievements they’re proud of.
  • Appreciation circle: In a group setting, have kids sit in a circle and take turns acknowledging and celebrating each other’s achievements.
  • Goal-setting celebration: Setting, tracking, and working toward a goal is a huge accomplishment for children. Before talking about the next steps or setting a new goal, take time to celebrate the finished goal with a reward or a fun activity.  
  • Achievement reflection: Using a journal, drawing, or other art form your child can practice, have your child reflect on their achievement and how it makes them feel. You can also encourage them to consider their journey and the hard work they put in along the way to help produce positive responses.

Cultural Awareness and Appreciation Activities

When children learn about different cultures and celebrate their own diversity, they learn to appreciate and feel confident in their background and unique qualities. Additionally, cultural awareness helps kids learn to reduce negative thinking — and recognize that their peers may have very different values, traditions, and lifestyles — teaching them to be open-minded and respectful toward others.

A few ways adults can encourage children to explore their own heritage and cultures from around the world include:

  • Reading multicultural books and stories
  • Cooking or trying cuisine from other cultures
  • Introducing children to basic words and phrases from different languages
  • Engaging in arts and crafts inspired by cultural traditions and symbols
  • Showing children different music, dance styles, and instruments from around the world
  • Inviting guest speakers or cultural experts to talk about their background and share their experiences
  • Facilitating research projects that encourage children to learn and present information on different countries or cultures

Nurturing Self-Esteem: Empowering Children’s Mental Health With Professional Support

Learning to navigate the world can be scary and frustrating for children. Kids need a safe and supportive space to attempt new things, work through challenges and difficult emotions, grow their skills, and learn what makes them unique. When children don’t feel secure in themselves or their environment, they can struggle with low self-esteem, lack confidence in their abilities, and ultimately struggle with their mental health.

Best self-esteem activities can help children to explore the world around them and build confidence and resilience. However, every child’s journey is unique — and some children may face challenges that require additional support. Mental health plays a vital role in shaping a child’s self-esteem and seeking help from a qualified children’s therapist can be a valuable resource in nurturing their emotional well-being.

Through therapy, children can develop coping skills, improve their emotional awareness, and learn effective strategies to build their self-esteem and positive mindset. As a parent or caregiver, it’s important to remember that seeking professional help isn’t a sign that you’ve failed. Rather, you’re taking a proactive step to ensure your child receives the best care for their mental health and is equipped with the tools they need to be healthy, well-functioning adults.

Parenting is HARD! We’re here to help your child thrive. Find an Ellie location near you and get matched with a therapist today.