Developing Sense of Self

Preschoolers are developing their own perceptions of themselves as individuals

girl with hands on her hips

At A Glance

Preschoolers often define and describe themselves in terms of their physical attributes, skills, interests, or behaviors that they consider most important about themselves. Additionally, many are beginning to develop an understanding of their culture, beliefs, associations and how they are different or similar to other people. Children’s development of their sense of self is heavily influenced by how adults respond to them. Educators can help children develop a positive sense of self by providing a nurturing environment, acknowledging children’s unique qualities and abilities, and providing a nurturing environment filled with acceptance and respect.

What It Looks Like

A quick glance at how you can help preschoolers develop a positive sense of self

Encourage Children's Independence

Children can do a lot when given the support and encouragement to try – and succeed! – on their own.

Share Preferences​

Providing children with opportunities to share their likes and dislikes helps them express who they are.

Embrace Differences

Embracing similarities and differences builds community and identity.

children reading a book together


Creating Mirrors and Windows

Through books, young children can reflect on what makes them unique and develop their understanding of others. In her TedX Talk, Grace Lin, award-winning children’s book author and illustrator, shares how books provide children with a window into the larger world, as well as a mirror for self-reflection.

Our bookshelf also features many great books to support young children’s budding empathy and sense of self!


Focusing on Strengths

This blog from Brookings invites us to look beyond trauma. Learn how you can focus on children’s strengths to help them build a more positive view of themselves.


Embracing Families

The National Center on Quality Teaching and Learning shares tips for educators on building relationships with families of dual language learners.


Recognizing Bias and Promoting Equity

This short video from the Center of Excellence for Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation encourages educators to embrace children’s cultures to support their sense of self.

Activity Cards for Preschool Classrooms

Part of the STREAMin3 curriculum, these activity cards provide simple and fun ways you can help children embrace similarities and differences and develop a positive sense of self
share special traits

It's Good To Be Me!

Children share something they are proud of or that makes them special.

sing affirmations

Affirmation Songs & Cheers

Use songs or cheers to affirm children's sense of self.

Share Interests

Favorite Things

Provide a category and give each child a chance to share their favorite.

express yourself

Name Movements

Each child says their name with a movement, and their peers echo back.


Get Our Resource Guide

Includes questions and activities to guide your use of the videos, book suggestions, and activity cards featured for each of the Core Skills