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The following activities can be used by parents and teachers to promote a natural, healthy sense of self-esteem in children. They teach concepts related to things like self-worth, body image, and celebrating each child’s unique talents. Intended for kids in preschool and elementary school.

Things That Make Me Feel Good About Myself
(A Group Time Self-Esteem Activity for Kids)
Conduct a brainstorming session in group to have kids tell you all the things that make them feel good inside. A hug? Receiving a compliment? Getting a gift? Winning a game? Helping someone? Knowing that someone fancies you? Accomplishing something? Mastering a new skill? Be as specific as possible: “I feel good when I beat my Dad at Monopoly”; “I feel good when I pet my kitty;” etc. Record their answers on your blackboard.

Now take a moment to analyze your children’s responses. Why is it these things make you feel good? How many of these feel-good moments revolve around things that you do as opposed to things that you are? Do these items fit into one of the 5 main categories of self-esteem (love; skills or talents; accomplishments; sense of belonging; helping or caring for others)?

Finally, ask kids what would happen if people don’t receive enough of these feel-good moments, and talk about ways we can help share them with others.

Something I Like About…A Self-Esteem Activity for Kids in Preschool & Elementary School
Have kids hold hands to sit down in a circle so that everyone is facing one another. Once seated, talk about how everyone possess their own unique talents and strengths, and how we all possess certain positive qualities that others can admire and appreciate. In order to highlight these attributes, we’re going to each take turns naming a positive quality in the child next to us. This can be an aspect of their personality, a kind deed they once performed, a time when they were brave, a physical quality such as their beauty or nice clothes, a talent they have or a sport they’re good at, or any other admirable quality their classmate possesses.

Before you begin, explain that it may take certain kids longer to name something because they don’t know their classmate as well, not because that person is less likeable. This should help to reduce any hurt feelings that might otherwise arise should a child struggle to think of something, as kids commonly do.

Pick a child to start with and go down the circle having them think of one nice thing to say about the kid next to them, either to the left or right (or both). Then after each child gives their compliment, add your own compliment about that child. This gives you a chance to add to the sometimes shallow compliments the kids serve up. When Johnny’s friend tells him he likes his shirt, you can compliment Johnny on how well he behaves or how much energy he has at recess. When one child gives a compliment about how nice the girl next to her is, you might compliment her on her pretty eyes, especially if it’s a child who seldom gets compliments on her looks. You can balance out the compliments given, and your input will also help kids think about their peers in broader terms.

Finish by talking about how each of us is unique, and we all bring different talents and qualities to the table. Others may be better at certain things, but we also have areas where we’re better than others. Nobody can ever be all of everything, and that’s okay.

Mirror, Mirror in My Hand (A Self-Esteem Activity for Kids Ages 4-12)
This is sort of like a trust fall exercise, only for improving self-esteem. Group the children into pairs (same gender or opposite gender), and give each pair a hand-held mirror. If you don’t have enough mirrors to go around you’ll have to rotate kids in and out of this activity.)

Seat one child in a chair with a mirror, and seat the other child directly behind them, so that they’re looking over the other child’s shoulder. Have the child with the mirror hold it up in front of their face so that both kids are looking at their reflection, and say:

Mirror, mirror in my grasp,
What do you see, I have to ask?

The child behind them then softly speaks or whispers nice things into their ear, as if they were the mirror talking back to the child: “I see a good friend who’s lots of fun to play with; I see a kind face that’s always eager to help people; I see gorgeous eyelashes and such lovely blond hair; I see someone who’s determined;” etc. You should model this exercise to your class ahead of time, picking a child at random and playing the role of the whisperer (only don’t whisper when you demonstrate it!) so that they get an idea of the range of things they can say.

After a minute or so have the kids switch places and repeat the activity in the opposite roles. Then switch partners or let other kids have their turn. Give kids the opportunity to do this exercise in as many different combinations as possible, which will give them a greater variety of enriching perspectives. Just be sure to monitor the kids’ facial expressions at a distance to ensure the comments are positive. (You can swoop in every so often and have kids whisper what they said into your ear too. It gives you a chance to agree or reaffirm what was said, or simply say, “How interesting.” ) Younger age groups are usually pretty good about being kind and constructive, but as you get into the latter grades of elementary school, it’s possible certain kids might use this opportunity to bully or put down someone they’re feuding with.

After you’re through with our self-esteem activities, be sure to check our other self esteem resources:

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