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By now, you've probably heard all about the growth mindset. Specifically, many are talking about exercising the growth mindset in young learners. So what is it all about, and why is it so important, especially for our kids?
Having a growth mindset challenges us to rise above negativity and limitation. It encourages perseverance in the face of failure, determination in the face of difficulty, and a focus on what is possible for us to achieve. For the reasons and others, the growth mindset is one of the most valuable attitudes we can nurture within our kids.
All it takes are the right tools, and these growth mindset activities for kids are a perfect start. No matter if you're doing them at home or in the classroom, they provide enjoyable and stimulating avenues for learning the growth mindset in the younger years.
10 Fun and Challenging Growth Mindset Activities for Kids
- Negative to Positive
- Famous Fails
- How Can I Contribute?
- Kindness Week Challenge
- The Crumple Exercise
- Plan of Action
- Self-Awareness Checklist
- Accomplishment Jar
- 3–2–1 Exercise
1. Negative to Positive
This is a great introductory exercise that gets young kids familiar with the language of the growth mindset. It also helps them with understanding how to make the mental shift by altering their internal voice.
Write down a list of negative or limiting statements we can sometimes make about ourselves (e.g. "I'm not good enough" or "I'm too ______"). Next, show them how to place a positive spin on the phrase by merely altering the language we use.
In doing so, kids will start to make simple connections to how to change how we speak to improve how we feel about ourselves. Encourage them to give it a try with the rest of the sentences you've written for them.
Here are some simple examples of negative statements to begin with that they can quickly turn around with just a few changes:
- "I don't believe in myself."
- "I'm not smart enough to do that."
- "I'm not good enough to _____."
- "I don't have good ideas."
- "I'm not very strong."
- "I'm not an exceptional person."
2. Famous Fails
Many of our most notable accomplishments came in the wake of equally significant failures. Our history is full of such examples. Discovering who these people are and how they overcame adversity to succeed can be very inspiring stories for young kids.
Go on a search with your learners (or better yet, have them do the research themselves) for some of history's most famous failures. How did these people fail, and how did they come back even stronger to accomplish their goals and dreams? Here are some famous examples:
- Abraham Lincoln—Lincoln was a disastrous failure as a soldier, a businessman, and a campaigning politician. He went on to become one of the most influential presidents in U.S. history.
- Elvis Presley—Elvis was fired after his first Grand Ole Opry performance, and promptly told he should just go become a truck driver. It's a good thing he didn't listen.
- Walt Disney—His former newspaper editor informed him that he had no imagination and lacked any good ideas. Later, thanks to his accomplishments, his name would become synonymous with the word "imagination."
- Steven Spielberg—Spielberg was rejected by the California School of Cinematic Arts twice, and still became one of the most famous directors in movie history.
- J.K. Rowling—Rowling was a struggling writer and a broke, divorced single mother who was struggling with depression. In spite of that, the phenomenal success of her Harry Potter novels speaks for itself.
- Stephen King—His very first novel, Carrie, was rejected by publishers over thirty times. King's wife Tabitha retrieved the manuscript after he threw it in the trash and urged him not to give up. He didn't, and the rest is history.
3. How Can I Contribute?
Part of building strong relationships and healthy communities is being able to offer something of value that comes from within us. Whether it be an idea we share or a talent we have, we can achieve great things when we contribute to people and networks that matter to us.
Have your kids sit down in pairs or in groups. From there, they can brainstorm all the ideas they can on how to contribute to their community. Some ideas might be:
- Holding a fundraiser for a local business
- Doing a public park clean-up
- Volunteering at a local homeless shelter or senior care facility
- Cooking meals for a local fire hall
4. Kindness Week Challenge
A little kindness goes a long way, but how far can a week of kindness go? Here's a perfect way for you and your kids to find out. This is one of those growth mindset activities for kids that teaches them the altruistic value of being kind to others.
Organize a week that will involve either pairs or groups of students working together to perform one act of kindness a day. Have your kids keep a journal of the kind acts they engage in each day, why they chose those activities, what the results were, and what they learned from the experiences. Suggestions for activities could be things like:
- Offering to help a neighbour with yard work
- Performing an hour of cleaning at a local business
- Paying someone a compliment
- Making "kindness cards" to give out
- Baking a dessert for a neighbour
- Donating clothes that don't fit anymore
There are many other ideas to discover in the article 100 Acts of Kindness for Kids.
5. The Crumple Exercise
This activity shows learners two things: first, the power of seeing mistakes in a positive light, and second, that even uncomfortable feelings are still valid ones.
Have kids write down a mistake they made that day on a piece of paper. Next, have them crumple the paper into a ball and hurl it at the wall or at the board with as close as they can get to the same feeling they have when they make a mistake. Give them a minute, and then ask them to pick up the paper, open it, and look at their mistake again.
As they look at what they wrote, encourage them to accept that everybody makes mistakes, no matter who we are or how hard we try. When they begin to accept this, you can guide them toward explaining out loud how they could do better next time, and what they'll do the next time they make a mistake.
The final step is to have them crumple the paper up again, and this time throw it away for good, symbolizing the mistake is in the past and is no longer critical. For fun, you can even have them shout out a word when they do it, such as "Done!" or "Next!" or "Goodbye!"
Grow-ga (or Growth Mindset Yoga) is a physical activity that pairs up yoga with positive affirmations. It's a good concentration exercise, an exciting physical activity, and a fun way to teach kids about making constructive self-statements.
Choose some fairly basic yoga poses you know that learners would be comfortable doing, but will still find challenging. The next step is to attach growth mindset statements to each movement. Here are some ideas you can expand on:
- I work hard
- I am a creative person
- I am always focused
- I have an open-mind
- I care about others
- I enjoy learning and discovering
As kids perform each pose one after the other, have them channel all their good feelings as they call out the statements together while briefly holding the poses.
7. Plan of Action
As kids learn more about the growth mindset, they will come to the point at which they'll want to know more about planning in the face of failure. The Action Plan activity lets them come up with thinner own ideas on how to proceed when they face difficulty.
The questions we ask in the action plan can be a worksheet, in the form of a list, chart, or table. What's important is leaving plenty of room for learners to write down their thoughts after each question. Here are the Action Plan questions that you can arrange on a custom worksheet:
- What happened?
- What was the result?
- What were you thinking at the time?
- What have you learned that can help you?
- What new ideas do you have for moving forward?
- What's your new plan?
- What will you think about to keep yourself going?
Many of these questions are used in restorative practices in schools and are great channels into personal insights. You can use these questions as they are or come up with other variations.
8. Self-Awareness Checklist
The growth mindset means having a strong sense of ourselves. It means knowing our strengths and weaknesses, how we can improve, and what energizes us as well as what causes us stress. Through this exercise, kids will learn how self-awareness can contribute to self-improvement in many areas.
You can do this by delivering the questions either orally or by setting them down in writing. As you ask each one of them, encourage learners to reflect on the nature of the questions and write down the most honest answers possible.
- I feel I am strong in the areas of _____.
- I think I am weak in the areas of _____.
- I learn best when I _____.
- I feel the most stress when _____.
- I find that I'm most comfortable when _____.
- I find that _____ makes me uncomfortable.
- The thing I need the most help with is _____.
- I'm most comfortable asking for help by _____.
9. Accomplishment Jar
Achieving goals and accomplishing our objectives helps us grow and build on success There are lots of supportive ways kids can share those accomplishments and celebrate them with others. One easy and enjoyable way to do this is with an "accomplishment jar."
To do this, get a large jar (large enough to get your and into) or a small fishbowl. Next, make slips of paper with these questions: What's one thing that I accomplished today? How do I feel about it, and why?
Leave a small box beside the jar containing these slips and a few pencils. Now, direct your kids to fill out one or two every day along with their name, and place them into the jar.
At the end of every week or so, you can take the slips out and create a pile for each learners' name. Then hand them back to each student so they can review their accomplishments and celebrate how much they've grown and what they've learned. You can even let kids share their achievements orally if they so choose.
10. 3-2-1 Exercise
The 3-2-1 exercise is one of the growth mindset activities for kids that can also be a formative assessment activity. 3-2-1 consists of asking students to consider the following questions at the end of a day or week:
- What are 3 things I've learned?
- What are 2 things I want to learn?
- What is 1 question I still have?
Editor's note: This post was originally published in 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Originally published Jun 26, 2019, updated Dec 16, 2021