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DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET Why It’s Important Life is a never-ending series of choices: “Should I eat this donut or this carrot?” “Paper or plastic?” “Sleep in or get to work early?” “Drive in this storm or wait for it to pass?” Childhood is prime time for practicing at such decisions. When adults, no matter how well intentioned, always make decisions for a child, the child misses out on chances to practice decision making—as well as to learn from the consequences of his choices, good and bad. Becoming good at making choices can take a lot of practice, and we hinder children when we limit their opportunities. Not allowing children to make their own choices also impacts their sense of self, their feelings of control over their own lives, their autonomy, and their need for power. These things can cause stress and lead to behavior problems. Kids who feel they have no control over their choices often act out defiantly as a way to gain some control and power. The choices we make for ourselves as adults chart the entire course of our lives. It’s important to support children as they learn to make theirs. How to Support It You can support children’s choice making in your early learning setting by taking these actions: 1. Provide large blocks of time where children are free to make their own choices about what and how they play. 2. Create opportunities for real-world choice making. This can be as sim- ple as letting a child decide whether she needs to wear a hat when she heads outside to play. 3. Trust their choices. Allowing a child to make a choice and then talking the child out of it because you don’t agree with it undermines the child’s choice making. Obviously, you have to step in and be the adult in situations involving real danger (“No, you can’t jump from the second-story window with that paper parachute duct-taped to your back!”), but holding your tongue and trusting them to own their choices—good and bad—will help children learn to make better decisions. 4. Allow mistakes. Learning to make good choices requires making some bad choices—and then living with the consequences. This could mean allowing a child to have cold ears for a while when he chooses not to wear a hat out to play on a chilly day. Choice 9 COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL