7 Tips to Help Children Learn from Their Mistakes

"Uh oh!"

“Uh oh!”

While I was working on the computer a few days ago, Georgia (20 months old) wanted to sit beside me and do some coloring. I set her up with one of her favorite coloring books and a small lunchbox full of old crayons. Each time she wanted a new color, she would grab a handful of crayons and cause the lunchbox to get dangerously close to the edge of the table. I patiently showed her how to look in the box and choose one crayon so that the likelihood of knocking the box on the floor was diminished. She proceeded to do exactly what I had taught her, and we both continued to work on our projects with no incidents.


If only it were that simple. The best, all-encompassing word to describe Georgia is “independent.” Sometimes she is more selfsufficient and autonomous…other times she is more obstinate and headstrong. On this day, she was persistent in the fact that she knew the best way to do it…so I let her.

I have learned to pick my battles, and this was not going to be one of them. I’m sure that you will never guess what happened. That’s right…the box of crayons fell on the floor and went everywhere, and I embraced it as a teachable moment.

  • Show some empathy – She was really upset about what happened so talk with her about it. “Oh no! What happened? The box of crayons fell off the table and made a big mess. It’s OK. Remember what Elmo says? Accidents happen.”
  • Make a plan – “We need to clean up all these crayons. I will hold the box. You pick up the crayons and put them in the box.”
  • Allow your child to fix it – She made the mess so I gave her the opportunity to clean it up. If I were to swoop in and clean it up for her, what would I be teaching her?
  • Give encouragement – “Good job. You’ve almost got all of them.”
  • Help as needed – After she picked up most of the crayons, I pointed out where the rest of them were. “Oh…look under the table. I see 4 crayons under the table. Go get them, but be careful and watch your head.”
  • Review the lesson – Take a moment to briefly review what happened. “The next time you are coloring, please be careful with the box. Thanks for cleaning up for me.”
  • Show some love – Each time something like this happens, I end the “lesson” with a hug, a kiss and by saying, “I love you.” I think it is important for children to know that even when they make mistakes, we still love them.

How do you handle it when your child makes mistakes?

Melissa 🙂