Challenges can be stressful, for children and adults alike, but avoiding challenges prevents us from achieving our potential.The willingness to take on challenges starts at an early age and grows with support and encouragement.
The key factors in whether a challenge ultimately feels good—and whether a stress level stays tolerable—are how long the stress lasts and whether or not children have safe and reliable relationships with the people to whom they turn for support. To help children take on reasonable challenges, adults can encourage a "growth mindset" that emphasizes skill development rather than "natural" talents.
One way to help build the challenge-taking skill is to encourage children to take reasonable risks. The Museum's Twilight Trail is just dark enough to let a small child feel brave, Outdoor Adventure's Zoom Tree encourages children to practice climbing, and our Theater may challenge a child who is nervous about speaking in front of others.
When children have a growth mindset they know their brain is like a muscle—it gets stronger with use. They learn that every time they work hard, their brain forms new connections. As with all skills, taking on challenges can take a while to develop. Offering support and opportunities to take on small challenges can build confidence over time.
**Taking on Challenges is one of the Seven Essential Life Skills described by Ellen Galinsky in her book, Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs (2010), available in the Museum Store. We have also created a brief handbook to provide information for you to explore at home.