Or a child who uses the same set of wooden blocks to build increasingly intricate buildings.
While these experiences may look repetitive to adults, Goldenberg says that they play a critical developmental role.“When children repeat something spontaneously, it is generally because they are still gaining something from that experience,” he says. ”“When you appreciate effort, children learn that working hard and persisting is a positive thing,” she says.
“The right game for a child is one that is easy enough to play yet just hard enough to be fun.”While it may be tempting to provide an answer to a child who is stuck, Young says it is more effective to ask them questions.
The more open-ended, the better.“Ask, what can you do next? Or ask the child to show you how he did something,” says Young.
“These types of prompts help the child develop problem-solving strategies and a sense of competence, which is key to mastery motivation.”When asking open-ended questions does not re-engage the child, it is okay to give just enough information—and some gentle guidance—to get past the point of frustration.
A well-timed, “I wonder what would happen if you turned this…” or even just holding the puzzle board steady so they can add their piece may be enough. Children who exhibit mastery motivation are able to stick with a task when it gets difficult.
We can also provide them many opportunities for their investigating and exploring, such as magnets, found objects, and appliances that become unusable.
We can rotate our materials to turn them into new and encouraging their thinking.
Research also shows that children’s mastery motivation is related to their mathematics knowledge.“Math games encourage children to problem-solve,” says Young.
“Games also allow children to try different strategies without the fear of failure, because there is usually more than one way to win.”In fact, working through difficulty is part of what makes games enjoyable, says Goldenberg.“There’s no joy in playing a game that’s too easy,” he says.