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Growth Mindset

Learning a new skill or attempting a novel task can be challenging. It requires persistence, reflection and an ability to manage frustrations. To see an opportunity for growth and to continue working through a challenging task, despite setbacks, is to have a growth mindset. This valuable concept can be taught and reinforced to children through the language used to reinforce their efforts (e.g., You're working really hard) or modeling what it looks like to make a mistake and keep trying. A hands on way to formally teach this concept or reinforce a child's understanding of it is by constructing a “brain city” together. This concept was originally created and shared by the Momentous Institute and can be used well in conjunction with Social Thinking language and concepts. The idea behind brain city is to teach that our brains can be thought of as cities. In our brains there are areas that are really strong (e.g., problem solving and writing), which would be the tall buildings in our city and areas that might need a bit more work (e.g., emotion recognition, math) which would be the smaller buildings. The taller buildings are likely areas where a great deal of hard work and grit led to growth. The smaller buildings are areas that are not YET an area of strength or something that is a work in progress. Just as cities are always under construction, so are brains. New floors can be added to smaller buildings to represent gradual growth from continued practice. The message to send to children is that learning is ongoing and different for every person. Brains are always changing and growing, just like cities. To do this activity at home:

  • talk about strengths and areas of growth

  • talk about the brain and its ability to learn new things

  • cut out small and large "buildings" and paste them to a poster board

  • label the buildings with strengths and areas of growth

  • come back to the brain city occasionally and add a floor to small buildings if there has been growth

  • watch the city grow over time!

This activity can be a helpful activity to do with any child and in particular a child who:

  • Has difficulty thinking flexibly

  • Is hesitant to try new activities

  • Exhibits perfectionist tendencies


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