30 January, 2024

The Power of Positive Affirmations in Early Childhood Education

Early learning centres

As any expert in an early learning centre knows, positive affirmations in early childhood education are critically important.
They help build confidence in children and self-belief plays a significant role in their development and future academic progress.

What are positive affirmations?

Although the term may sound slightly academic in itself, in reality, it simply means making it clear to children that they’re valued and in various ways, ‘special’.
Many parents and care providers don’t need special explanations and definitions as to the ‘how’. That’s because this process is often almost innate. Even as babies, one often sees parents quite spontaneously smiling, laughing and clapping at their baby’s efforts with things like trying to use a spoon. Phrases such as “oh you’re so clever” seem to spring naturally to many when they’re interacting with a child even at ages far too young to understand the words themselves.

There is ample experimental evidence to show that babies at a very early age start to respond positively to such feedback. Many will echo the smiles and giggles of the person they’re interacting with and repeat the behaviour that generated the reaction in the first place.  At its simplest level, that is positive affirmation and its consequences.

The early learning centre and positive affirmations

Once a child reaches a certain age, slightly more formal efforts might be made to encourage learning-through-play activities. That might correspond with the child starting at a daycare centre or other preschool environment, which also operates under early learning centre auspices.

It’s worth restating that not all daycare centres do so. There is typically a large difference between passive ‘childminding’ and a centre oriented towards helping children’s development through structured play activities.

True early learning centres will adopt positive reinforcement (aka. positive affirmation) approaches at all times to stimulate children towards enhanced learning and play participation.

Examples of positive affirmations

It’s critically important that children receive such affirmations both at home and in the early learning centre environment. There are endless opportunities for doing so, just a few examples of which might include:
always praising their efforts and activities even if, in truth, they have been unsuccessful. The important behaviour to be praised is that they tried. Simple smiles and

  • “that’s really good” can work wonders for a child’s confidence;
  • stressing how pleased you are to see them at the end of the day when you pick them up;
  • showing great interest in the stories of their day at the centre or if at home, what they’ve done or what they’re doing. It can be demoralising for a child if they feel a parent or care provider isn’t interested in these things;
  • encouraging them enthusiastically to try new things and approaches – assuming you approve of them!


Some child education specialists have made the point that positive affirmation can, in some rare cases, be taken too far and that might not be in the child’s best interests.
Examples include the often-cited problem of how to motivate a child to do things differently/better or more correctly if, at the same time, the parent or care provider is stating that their existing efforts are brilliant etc.

This is a legitimate point but one that is often over-stated as a danger.

Experienced professionals in an early learning centre will handle this along established pathways that involve praise and positive feedback for the first effort but then suggest, in a play and fun context, that there might be alternative ways to do things. This usually avoids under all circumstances, telling the child directly or indirectly that their first attempt wasn’t very good or was “wrong”.

Excluding some potential behaviour situations (and even there judgment and care are required), very young children will never benefit from being told that something they’ve tried to do is not very good or criticised that they could have done better.

An experienced early learning centre will be happy to give more detail relating to positive affirmation in helping younger children’s development.

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