Self-esteem develops long before kids reach high school or adulthood. Even babies absorb how those around them respond and act toward them, which helps develop self-concept. At the preschool level, self-esteem grows from positive interactions and responses from others, particularly when trying new skills. Activities in the preschool classroom give young children a chance to develop a sense of self as they participate in activities that foster a sense of accomplishment.
"All About Me" Art
The open-ended nature of art projects allows all preschoolers to feel successful as they create. Focus the art projects on a sense of self and the positive traits of each child. One option is a self-portrait that highlights each preschooler's characteristics. Give each child a face or body shape, or trace each child on a large sheet of paper. The kids decorate the outlines to look like themselves. Another option is to make a collage of images that show what the child does well. Have each preschooler pick out traits or skills that she is proud of and draw pictures to represent each thing. For class artwork, design a huge banner that shows all of the things your students can do. Write "I can" for each child. Let the child choose one thing she wants to highlight on the banner. Let her draw a picture to go along with her statement.
Part of building a child's self-esteem is helping him recognize what makes him different. One way to do this is to discuss the characteristics of the students. You can use that information for science and math activities in the classroom. Cut a string or strip of paper to match the height of each child. Put each child's name on his corresponding paper or string. Hang the measurements on the wall to see how all of the students measure up. Physical traits, such as hair color or eye color, work well as the basis for a charting activity. Another science-based way to show kids how they are different is with fingerprints. Have each child press a fingerprint on a class chart. Let the kids investigate with a magnifying glass to see how the fingerprints look different. Enlarging some of the prints can help the preschoolers see the subtle differences.
Creating a positive classroom community helps your preschoolers feel better about themselves. If the students constantly bicker or make fun of one another, no one will feel positive. One way to encourage respect and positive reinforcement between the students is by teaching the kids to point out things they like about one another. Set out blank cards or paper and envelopes. Encourage the kids to draw pictures that show what they like about someone else. Another option is to print some compliment cards with sentence starts and blank lines. You might write, "_____ is great at ______." A student can write a classmate's name in the first blank and draw a picture or attempt to write a word in the second blank to show what makes that person special. Let the kids deliver the mail either directly to recipient or to classroom mailboxes.
Literacy is a major component of the preschool curriculum. Incorporate literacy into your self-esteem instruction with children's books. Book options include "Cupcake" by Charise Harper, "Happy to Be Me!" by Christine Adams, "It's Okay to Be Different" by Todd Parr and "I'm Gonna Like Me: Letting Off a Little Self-Esteem" by Jamie Lee Curtis. Read the books and use them as a discussion starter about being yourself and feeling confident in who you are. Let the kids act out the plots of the stories to reinforce the ideas.
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