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In my experience working with children and adults, self-confidence or a lack of confidence can have a big impact on whether a person is able to overcome the challenges they are experiencing, such as fear and anxiety as well as other concerns. When a child builds their self-confidence meaning they believe in their self more, they become more assertive and more comfortable with themselves. This seems to generalize into many areas of their life including helping to subside their fears and worries.

Here are three play therapy techniques I find suitable for helping children to improve their self-confidence. Many play therapy activities can also be used on adults, as well.

1. Pretend Play

Allow a child to create a puppet show to express the difficulty they are having. For instance, if the child is afraid of the dark, have them come up with a puppet show about a puppet who is afraid of the dark. Have them create a title for the puppet show and then make the show. If the child doesn’t seem to be coming up with a way to help the puppet overcome his fear, present inquiring questions to see if they can come up with a way to help the puppet not be afraid anymore.

This activity can help the child to become more able to open up in their own life to thinking more about how they can personally overcome their fear of the dark. It can also build their self-confidence by helping them feel successful in assisting the puppet in feeling better about his situation.

2. Encourage Independence

Many children with low self-esteem or low self-confidence display behaviors that indicate they do not believe they can do things on their own. To encourage independence, when a situation arises in which the child states he can’t do it or wants you to do it for him, encourage the child to do the activity. Praise any effort he makes. For instance, if a child is developmentally capable of cutting something out with scissors and an activity requires that task and the child asks you to do it for him, gently encourage him to try to do it.

It is okay to do things for a child sometimes. Kids with low self-confidence or who are more sensitive can benefit from being helped in part because it reassures them that someone is there to support and care for them. However, it is important to balance the amount of assistance you provide and the amount of independence that you encourage.

3. Self-Awareness

Helping children to become more aware of who they are can help build self-confidence. Children with low self-confidence may not be very decisive or assertive. They may say “I don’t know” a lot or may hesitate when you ask them questions about themselves, such as what is their favorite food or what are they good at. It can help build a child’s self-confidence to ask them questions about who they are, what kinds of things they like, what they are good at, and what makes them happy, sad, or mad.

In addition to becoming more self aware, help the child to also accept there own answers. To do this, be supportive of the answers they provide by making sure not to discount or make them feel like they need to change their answer in anyway. If the child has a very difficult time making decisions particularly about things they want or like, you can start small by asking what they might prefer between two items, such as bananas or grapes or using paints or markers.

(pic by cherylholt)

Disclaimer: Play therapy should only be implemented by trained professionals, although it is okay for parents and caregivers to support their child in building self-confidence. If you are a parent, using these activities for your children is okay as long as you aren’t trying to take the place of a therapist.