Giving Children Choices

Giving Children Choices

Before working with school-age children and toddlers, I was a parent and I learned quickly it is about giving children choices. When I began working as a paraprofessional, I was given a brief training on how to handle situations that required a little extra care. They offered ideas such as setting timers, sensory walks, and offering choices to help keep children calm and on-task. When I saw the power of choice to a child, it was life-changing. Situations became much easier with my own children as I began to offer them choices when they didn’t want to do what I was asking of them. 

Promoting Choice

Taylor Bourque states, “Being able to choose can build a positive sense of self.” Offering choices gives a child some control, promotes expressing opinions, teaches cause-and-effect, and can help them to become more empowered individuals. You may find that offering choices can also help foster patience for caretakers. By allowing a child to make a choice, it redirects a caretaker’s thinking to what safe, limited choices can they offer. Sometimes, a child is still reluctant to make one of the decisions, but if you stick with it, they usually end up picking one and have less adverse reactions. 

Provide Two to Three Options

When offering choices, make sure to only offer options that a child will truly be able to choose. In other words, don’t offer anything you aren’t willing to allow or follow through with. You’ll want to avoid giving too many options – just offer two or three so you don’t overwhelm the little one. Be sure that choices are simple, clear, and appropriate for their age. Additionally, if a child is doing something dangerous, offer safe alternatives. For example, while playing outside you notice a child throwing rocks. Instead of saying “Stop! That’s dangerous,” you could instead offer “We can’t throw rocks because it isn’t safe. Would you like to seesaw or go down the slide?” When they decide, praise their decision and accompany them to the activity they decided on, removing them from the rocks. Positive reinforcement goes a long way. Read books to children about options, decision-making, and emotions. Decision-making is an important aspect of growth and offering choices will empower both you and the children in your care!

This blog was created by Jordan Pond, who is a current Child Development Associate (CDA) student with Jordan is the parent of two daughters and is currently a Child Development Associate student with She holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Sterling College, KS, and has worked with children for 3 years in various settings. Jordan was recently hired as a director-in-training

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