Expert Articles

How do you support children in exploring?

Author: Dr. MOK, Wing Si Joyce
Senior Clinical Psychologist


Yesterday, I attended a family barbecue event outdoors, and among the group of over ten people, the youngest was a three-year-old boy named Chi-To. Chi-To, who was lively and adorable, seemed to lack confidence in his gross motor skills, despite his tall stature. I noticed his cautious hesitation when faced with a giant outdoor playground slide structure. After climbing up a few steps, he was unwilling to continue. He even avoided the tall, spinning tunnel slide from a distance. Suddenly, I thought of using this opportunity to support Chi-To in exploring and encouraging him to challenge himself, which would ultimately contribute to enhancing his self-confidence.

So, I walked over to Chi-To and helped him coordinate his limbs to start climbing upward. With the use of his hands and feet, step by step, he successfully reached the first level. However, it seemed to require some thought to challenge him to venture beyond his comfort zone and continue climbing upward. I attempted to break down the larger goal into several smaller goals, considering each step as a small goal. I sat on the level above Chi-To, facing him at eye level, allowing me to closely monitor his state, including his facial expressions and body posture. If I noticed that he needed assistance, I provided it promptly. When he successfully stepped onto a level, we high-fived each other to celebrate. This kind of interaction kept Chi-To excited, joyful, and connected with me.

Unbeknownst to us, Chi-To had reached the entrance of the long slide. However, he started to feel nervous and quickly turned away. I understood that Chi-To was not yet ready to accept the challenge of sliding down from a height. I couldn’t let him feel pressured because it would not only increase his anxiety but also potentially lead to a fear of exploration. Therefore, I chose to respect his will and pace, offering encouragement and letting him know that he had bravely attempted and succeeded.

I continued to interact with Chi-To on other play equipment suitable for him, allowing him to gain more confidence in his abilities. I also shared this experience with his family, encouraging them to provide sufficient support to Chi-To in their daily lives, helping him build self-confidence and gradually overcome his fears.

From this experience of supporting Chi-To in exploration, we can summarize the following points:

  1. Respect the child’s will and pace, avoiding forcing them to meet others’ expectations.
  2. Break down big goals into achievable smaller goals and celebrate the achievement of each small goal, as this greatly enhances a child’s self-confidence.
  3. Maintain a connection with the child by providing timely and appropriate assistance and allowing them to accomplish tasks on their own. This way, they won’t feel alone in facing challenges.
  4. Pay attention to the child’s emotions and avoid causing them stress or fear.
  5. Share the experience with the child’s family, encouraging them to be patient, consistently help the child overcome their fears, and support them in bravely exploring the world.

We hope to encourage children to continuously challenge themselves, step out of their comfort zones, and cultivate them into confident, independent, and courageous individuals.

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How do you support children in exploring?