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How Does Mastery Motivation Help in Early Childhood Development?

What is Mastery Motivation and why is it Important?

Developing highly important competencies and mastering new skills are pivotal in early childhood development. ‘Mastery Motivation’ is a type of intrinsic motivation or inherent satisfaction that comes from within the child to learn new skills and achieve critical competencies. This, needless to say, is a powerful force in driving a child’s development

As adults, we know that the motivation to do anything must come from within. For children, this art of self-motivation is something that needs to be taught or developed. Mastery motivation is simply that motivation we need to excel and conquer the environment we are in. They are seen to be motivated when the intent of the task is to enjoy, explore, conquer and experience rather than just structured learning. Children learn through play, and this is something that comes naturally to them. With a little help and guidance from the experienced adults around, children learn to find joy in the tasks they do and the challenges they face.

Motivation to improve ourselves and achieve better skills and in turn greater success, is inherent to the development of humans. To be successful and happy in life, young children need to feel motivated to understand how to master social skills and non-social skills?. They need to learn self-regulation and have the desire to master the environments that they are placed in. Just like mastering the external environment and life’s challenges is important for every child, so is the art of learning to alter one’s feeling, thinking and reaction. This ability to make a conscious change in the internal thought process by a person is called “self-regulation”.

Why is Skill Development in the First Few Years of a Child’s Life Crucial?

Children learn and grow rapidly every day. Their development is at a peak during the initial few years of their lives. The opportunities and exposure that they get during this time establish the foundation to their lifelong journey of development. Various studies have been conducted to determine the effect of structures and free play on the overall development of children.

It is noted that children who have the opportunity and exposure to meaningful play and have access to a variety of different activities in their primary schooling tend to have better cognitive, physical and emotional skills. It helps them equally in their physical development in early childhood as it does in their mental development. These skills help shape their views and behaviors in life and give them the much-needed confidence to deal with challenges. Children learn communication skills, analytical skills and much more in a positive social setting. Encouraging and motivating children to engage in activities with peers or independently promotes their holistic development.

What is the Dibber “I Can” Initiative?

At Dibber, we strive to encourage our children to be the best versions of themselves. This includes providing them ample opportunities to explore and learn at their own pace. One of the programs that is specifically created to help children master life every day is our “I Can” program. This program is created with the aim of providing children with engaging challenges that can help them achieve a sense of mastery in various skills during their primary education years. We support and encourage children to dare and take on newer challenges and help them gain confidence and independence.

Here are some simple examples of the “I Can” concept:

  • A child who is shy might be challenged to introduce themselves to a new classmate.

  • A child who is struggling with reading might be challenged to read a book aloud to a parent or caregiver.

  • A child who is learning a new language might be challenged to have a conversation with a native speaker.

  • A child who is frustrated being messy while eating can be challenged to make mealtime fun and clean up after every meal.

  • A child who is learning to play a musical instrument might be challenged to play a song in front of their family.

These are just a few examples, but the possibilities are endless. And one important point to keep in mind while exploring this is to make sure the challenges are challenging, but not impossible. The child should feel a sense of accomplishment when they complete the challenge, but they should not feel discouraged if they don't succeed right away.

A core value at Dibber is learning together. This being said, we focus greatly on paying individualized attention to each child to ensure activities and programs are customized to match with each individual child’s personal developmental needs and growth rate. We individualize challenges based on what each child is able to do at a given point in time while making sure they get challenged to reach a higher goal.

Our teachers and caregivers understand that different children and different activities would require different levels of practice. Through joyful learning, we support and guide children to take on various tasks and attempt activities in different learning situations. We ensure a comfortable and inclusive learning environment and encourage children to be kind and empathetic to everyone around them.

Dibber values the relationship each family has with us and so we understand how important it is for every child to feel welcomed and secure in our setting. We wish to encourage children to try and attempt different learning challenges without the worry of failure.

At our preschool, children experience some form of success every day. We understand that positive reinforcements and encouragement are important to help children feel capable and confident about themselves every day.


Book - Mastery Motivation in Early Childhood – Chapter Mastery motivation and the formation of self-concept from infancy through early childhood - by Kay Donahue Jennings

Wang, J., & Barrett, K. C. (2013). Mastery motivation and self-regulation during early childhood. In K. C. Barrett, N. A. Fox, G. A. Morgan, D. J. Fidler, & L. A. Daunhauer (Eds.), Handbook of self-regulatory processes in development: New directions and international perspectives (pp. 337–380).

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