• benchmarks: the standards by which something can be judged. Benchmark behaviors are those behaviors that are typical, and against which most behaviors can be measured
  • developmentally appropriate practices: teaching and learning experiences grounded in the way in which we know that children learn, based on understanding the characteristics of a “typically-developing” child
  • executive function: all the cognitive processes that help a child behave and think in an organized way
  • self-regulated learners: children who have learned to manage strong emotions, control impulses, and stay on task with minimum distraction
  • social competencies: skills needed for successful social interaction; in young children these include making simple decisions, interacting with others in productive ways, and being able to resolve conflicts in appropriate ways (by using their words and negotiating and not being aggressive)

Recognize Children’s Strengths

Before watching this video, read the text below. When instructed, watch the video from the beginning to end.

We know that there are typical physical, social, emotional, and cognitive benchmarks in a child’s development—for example, the age at which a child is expected to walk or talk. We also know that when these benchmarks are reached can vary greatly from one child to another. Educators should also be aware that children have different kinds of skills or “intelligences.” Some children have good social and emotional skills, others excel in math and science, and others in language and literacy, or art.

As Professor Villegas-Reimers says in the overview, “We should promote all kinds of intelligences in the classroom.” To do this, educators should acknowledge children’s strengths.

  • Recognize that all children are intelligent in different ways. For one child, language may be his or her strength while for another child, it may be music, mathematics, science, drama, or something else.
  • Help children develop and become aware of their own strengths. Create an atmosphere that is open to children’s expanding development. For example, a space for children to create and act out dramatic play situations can help them become more aware of their abilities and experiment with and learn how to use their five senses to observe the world.
  • Identify and use children’s strengths to address their weaknesses. For instance, if a child is good at expressing himself or herself through sound and music, but does not easily grasp math concepts, try using musical rhythms to demonstrate those concepts (e.g., patterns).

In this video you’ll see educators identify and use children’s individual strengths to help them learn and grow. As you watch, look for effective strategies used by the educators in the video and jot down answers to these viewing questions in your Learning Log.

  • How do the educators teach to children’s differing strengths and needs?
  • How do the educators nurture children’s strengths?


Why is it important for you to be familiar with developmental ages and stages?

  • Knowing how children grow and change helps educators adapt their planning, pace, content, and teaching methods.
  • Familiarity with typical development patterns can alert educators to signs that a child might be delayed or need extra help, or that a child is advanced and needs more and new challenges to keep him/her engaged.

How can you teach to children's strengths and needs?

  • Observe children regularly. Educators should be skilled "child-watchers."
  • Listen closely as children play, respond in groups, react to stories and read alouds, and interact with peers.
  • Notice where children choose to spend their time. Are they more comfortable in the reading corner? The block center? At the easel? These activities can help adults assess a child’s strengths and interests.
  • Use children’s strengths to address their weaknesses. For example, if a child enjoys reading but struggles with science, share a book about science.
  • Provide a multitude of choices. Young children are open to the world of learning. Giving them choices often introduces or reinforces interests that are just developing. (Would you rather work with beads, paint at the easel, or read a book?)
  • Pair learners with different strengths. Children can learn from each other.

How can you nurture children's strengths?

  • Be explicit in recognizing and positively reinforcing a child's strengths. (I like your pattern. You chose red, blue, red, blue. You did a great job!)
  • Acknowledge strengths and encourage others to reinforce them, too. (Jaden is really good at puzzles. If you need help, ask him.)
  • Emphasize at least one strength for every child. Vary which strength is identified so as not to align a child with only that strength.
  • Ask parents and other caregivers at home for their insights and observations. Discuss how the child likes to spend his or her time at home.
  • Ask the child what she or he is good at doing. They often have surprising knowledge and self-awareness.
  • Encourage children to do something they have never done or something they think they are not good at. Recognize the effort rather than the final product.


Think about your own program as you answer these reflection questions in your Learning Log.

  • How do you recognize and develop children’s strengths?
  • What did you learn that you will put into practice in your learning environment?
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