Dr Jozelle Miller
May 29, 2018
Motivation in the early years
Motivation in babies (birth to around 18 months)

Babies are becoming familiar with their surroundings and those around them. They seek attention by smiling, cooing, babbling and crying. Much of what infants can do is related to their movement. They begin with random movements and then move to more purposeful actions, such as grasping objects, crawling, pulling themselves up to stand, and walking. They are very curious and like to explore.

What kind of experiences may support babies developing motivation?

Motivation in toddlers (around 18 months to three years)

Toddlers are continuing to explore their environment. They are also becoming better at deciding what to do to achieve their goals. As toddlers get older, they start developing an understanding for self-awareness and self-evaluation, and understand that there are a number of steps involved in reaching goals.

Children around three years old are not only interested in completing an activity, they also like doing it well. They are discovering which activities are easier or harder for them. Toddlers feel a lot of pride when they succeed in completing a challenging activity. If a challenging activity doesn’t work out this is a learning opportunity and they don’t feel much shame. However, if they view a task to be easy, they feel greater shame. This is why it is especially important to provide toddlers with support and encouragement after facing a challenging activity and less so after successes.

Giving children opportunities to accomplish tasks on their own encourages motivation. Parents can provide scaffolding for the task if support is required by the child. As children feel more capable of completing activities on their own, parents can reduce their involvement.

What kind of experiences could you provide to motivate toddlers?

Motivation in preschoolers (around three to five years)

Preschoolers are beginning to direct their own learning as they are becoming more capable of problem solving and working through activities on their own. They are more able to think through how they are going to complete an activity. Many times we might expect children to work quietly at a task on their own; however, encouraging children to talk with others about what they are doing promotes their learning and development. By being shown how to work through problems with the help of supportive adults, preschoolers are more able to scaffold their own learning. With this comes a greater sense of control over what they are doing, leading to greater confidence and self-esteem.