Mental Health: Focus on Initiative

Photo by Jeffrey Pomranka 

Photo by Jeffrey Pomranka 

A few days ago, I had a great discussion with one of our infant teachers. I had not been in her classroom in a few weeks and I was commenting on all of the new things that I was seeing the children do. We continued talking and she began to describe to me how a couple of the infants are making their needs/wants known. She described how a few months ago they would look over to the counter area (where bottles are made) when hungry and now they are moving over to the table and banging on it or going over to the fridge and trying to open it. She also described to me how one particular infant comes in each morning and goes directly to the toy shelves and begins to take items off the shelves. We could not help but marvel at the initiative that these children were showing. They have learned that their actions can make things happen for them!

Initiative is the ability to use thoughts and actions to meet your needs. Initiative develops when children have caregivers who provide a safe base from which to explore and who trust children’s ability to try new things on their own.

Initiative in infants and toddlers looks like:

  • Exploration of their surroundings through movement, tasting, touching, and looking around,
  • Reaching for familiar adults for play and comfort, and
  • Trying to do things independently.

You can support initiative for infants and toddlers by:

  • Learning and responding to your child’s cues,
  • Playing simple games such as peek-a-boo,
  • Providing a safe space for your child to explore and act on the world around her, and
  • Allowing your child to help you with chores or daily routines such as getting dressed.

Initiative in preschoolers looks like:

  • Trying new things,
  • Sticking with a task, even when it is hard, and
  • Asking lots of questions.

You can support initiative for preschoolers by:

  • Getting involved in your child’s play, asking questions, and following his lead,
  • Supporting your child’s interests,
  • Involving your child in daily tasks such as helping to set the table, and
  • Helping your child think about solutions to problems.

These are just a few of the things you can do to support your child’s initiative. Initiative builds children’s mental health and supports their resilience. If you would like to read more about mental health, see some of our other posts here, here, and here.

By Jessica Sims