Taking on Challenges

Discover the skills that every child needs.

Taking on Challenges

Discover the skills that every child needs.

What is Taking on Challenges?

Life is filled with stresses and challenges. All adults and children will benefit from the Life Skill of Taking on Challenges by learning how to manage stressful experiences proactively. It calls upon executive functions, including not going on automatic (inhibitory control) but rather reflecting on the experience or situation (reflection) and being flexible in thinking about solutions to the problem (cognitive flexibility).

Children who take on challenges instead of avoiding or simply coping with them achieve better in school and in life.

Promoting Taking on Challenges

Here are some research-based ways to help children improve the Life Skill of Taking on Challenges:

Everyday Routines

  • Everyday routines can be challenging. Choose peaceful moments to help children plan for what to do when they’re stressed. Try creating a story together that includes ideas for how children can handle these challenges—such as creating a fun song to sing when saying goodbye. Then try out the plan when things get stressful.

Playful Learning Activities

  • When making art, encourage children to persist in creating something even if it isn’t working out the way they hoped. Help them come up with strategies that can solve their problem, like painting over something they don’t like with white paint and starting again.
  • Help children to manage their emotions if they lose a game. Remind them that doing their personal best is the real win.

Learning Strategies

  • Encourage children to ask a trusted person for help with handling a tough situation.
  • Try joint problem solving. Talk with children about what has worked in the past when they’re trying something hard to help them figure out what might work this time.
  • Encourage children to understand that their attitude matters. Remind them when they’re struggling that the important thing is to continue learning and improving—not to do things exactly right.

If children are not making mistakes, then they are missing out on opportunities to learn.

Catherine Elizabeth Snow

Harvard University

Get More Tools & Resources to Build This Skill

Skill-Building Book Tips

These free, downloadable resources offer tips for building the Seven Essential Life Skills based on classic and diverse children’s books that promote the skills. Designed for three age groups, infants and toddlers, preschoolers, and school-age, Book Tips are available in English and Spanish.

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Skill-Building Opportunities

Picky Eating, Bedtime Fears, Meltdowns, Constant Crying, Sibling Rivalry! We’ve researched the questions families and teachers most frequently ask and created short free guides, available in English and Spanish, for professionals and families to help turn common behavioral issues into opportunities to promote critical life skills in children.

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