Nurturing Kids’ Confidence Through Play: An Age by Age Guide

No matter our age, how we feel about ourselves influences the way we act and how we perceive other people. And as parents, nurturing in our children a strong sense of confidence and self-worth at home better equips them to interact with peers in the outside world. The interest we show in them teaches them how valuable they are in our eyes, and in the eyes of other people they will meet.


One healthy, non-threatening way to develop kids’ self-esteem is through imaginative and creative play. Playing with  your child while giving them your full attention is key; it communicates the fundamental message that they are valuable and worth your time.

Consider these age-appropriate confidence-builders:


Babies (up to 12 months)

The interest you invest in baby playtime now will pay dividends later; these shared new experiences can begin a healthy pattern of spending positive time together!

  • Reading soft activity books to your baby is a perfect opportunity to cuddle and bond. Being able to listen to your voice, touch the movable fabric pieces and see the words on the pages helps foster an interest in early reading.
  • Gently rolling and tossing plush toy balls to your baby is a wonderful way to get giggles and smiles going – for parent and child alike!
  • Sitting a few feet away from your child on the floor and cheerfully calling your baby’s name can build an eagerness to crawl, as can playing together with wind-up toys that roll.

Toddlers (1-2 years)

When little ones start moving more actively, their choice of activities may expand. Continuing your special parent/child time will deepeen your relationship, and can mold a child’s love for learning.

  • Shape sorting toys promote tactile engagement and foster shape and color recognition.
  • Simple peg puzzles promote fine motor skills, teach organization and familiarize children with the ABC’s, 123’s, and object names.
  • A sturdy push toy lets toddlers feel more confident when walking, with motion-activated sound and spinning colors.

Preschoolers (3-4 years)

As your child grows, recognize and support his or her talents and help them develop. The whole person will naturally thrive.

  • Games engage the whole family while teaching basic strategy.
  • Role play costumes let kids indulge in fantasy while sparking the imagination.
  • Teach children to identify with their emotions using simple arts & crafts projects.
  • Floor puzzles with lots of big pieces and self-correcting puzzles instill confidence and exercise independence.

Older Kids (5+)

Your job is to nurture your child’s natural abilities while striking a balance between pushing and protecting. Inspiring your child to try and achieve their goals improves skills while building self-confidence.

  • Plant a family garden to teach responsibility, cause and effect, and instill pride.
  • Few things mark success more than learning to tie one’s shoes. A little practice every day can make this possible in no time.
  • Hopscotch and other outdoor play games provide exercise and build coordination.
  • Family game time fosters personal relationships with family, promotes problem solving skills and strategic thinking.

How do you use playtime activities to help boost confidence in your child? Share with us in the comments below, or join the conversation on Facebook.

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Related articles from the Melissa & Doug blog:

Let Your Kids’ Personalities Shine!

Going Through the {e}Motions

Why Costumes are Good for Kids