The Importance of Praise and Encouragement for Toddlers

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As parents, we tend to be overproud of our children, mainly because they’re our children. Subconsciously we’re proud of ourselves, of what we have created. After all, we’re witnessing the fruits of our labor.

It’s in our nature that we instinctively believe that our child is the cutest, smartest, most charming kid in the world. And that’s great! Our children need our attention, unconditional love, and enthusiasm. 

I’m going to explain the importance of praise and encouragement when you communicate with toddlers and how you can encourage your child in the best possible way.

Which Role Does Communication Play in a Child’s Development?

Apart from basic skills like walking, eating, and playing, our children need to learn interpersonal skills. These soft skills, such as knowing and understanding social norms and rules, tolerance, and empathy, are crucial for every human being’s development. 

A large portion of learning and developing those competencies happens through experiences with the people that surround them. These can be parents, grandparents, siblings, kindergarten teachers, and other children in kindergarten. Toddlers learn communication by communicating themselves and by watching communication of others. 

Therefore it’s vital to cultivate healthy communication not only with your child but also with your partner, parents, and strangers.

Why Does Your Child Need Encouragement and Praise?

Showing encouragement and praising can have many positive effects on the overall development of your child. By appreciating effort, endurance, and patience, you teach your child that he or she can learn new things. Your child understands that their potential isn’t limited to talent. Instead, you show that it’s worth to stay on task to accomplish something. 

When you praise your toddler for good behavior, it can help with finding a routine in everyday tasks, such as brushing teeth or helping others

Bear in mind that encouragement is not limited to positive experiences. It’s particularly important to show your empathy and encouragement if your child didn’t succeed in a specific task. Your child could have fought with a friend or had a bad day. 

Starting school can mean that difficult situations may increase. Help your toddler by showing your love and appreciate his or her existence with positive, encouraging words.

What Is the Difference Between Praise and Encouragement?

Praise and encouragement play an important role in communication and child education. They’re two different things, though.


If you praise a child, sentences usually start with “You are…” You praise a talent or ability your child already has and maybe always had. 

Praise can also be a reward for positive behavior. Your child learns a positive self-perception and can link the positive behavior to this positive feeling. You can praise your toddler, for example, for putting their toys away when asked.


Encouragement is more specific and rewards effort rather than behavior or talent.

For example, imagine your child comes home from kindergarten and shows you a well-made piece of handicraft. By saying, “You are so talented,” you’re praising your child for being talented in general. 

Ask yourself what your toddler might think about bringing home a piece of handicraft that didn’t turn out so well. They might feel pressured to show their talent, which may not always succeed. Your child might think you’re not proud if they aren’t able to show their great talent again.

Encouragement is also a great way to open the conversation, for example, by asking questions like, “How did you decide on these beautiful colors?” You can show that you appreciate efforts by saying, “Wow, you cut out the pieces so neatly, I can see you put a lot of effort into this piece.” 

Try to see and acknowledge the steps your child took to finish a task. It can help your child to learn that it’s worth putting effort into something, even though it’s difficult. Especially when it’s the first time your child tries something new, try to encourage them to stick to it.

What Are the Benefits of Encouragement and Praise?

The benefits of encouragement and praise in your child’s education can have many positive effects, such as:

  • Strengthening your child’s self-confidence.
  • Motivating your child to stay on task, even when it gets difficult.
  • Experiencing appreciation for putting effort into something.
  • Developing a conscience for possibilities and potential.
  • Feeling your genuine interest in your child.
  • Feeling rewarded for good behavior.
  • Helping to build trust and bonding between you and your child.
  • Helping your child to address struggles and problems.

What to Avoid When You Want to Encourage Your Child

As with anything, you have to find a fine balance—try to avoid praising too often. Overpraising might lead to a loss of value regarding this reward. If you praise too often for simple things, your child might get the impression that he or she doesn’t have to do anything to get praise.

Show your genuine interest and focus more on endeavor, like newly learned skills. Furthermore, try to avoid overpraising when talking about talents. If you praise your child for their intelligence too much, it can turn into a lack of interest in learning new things. Your child might stop trying and learning because he or she is already “so smart”.

Avoid addressing and praising the physical appearance or beauty of a child too much. Of course, it’s okay to tell your child that they’re cute and beautiful. However, try to consider how often and on which occasions you do so. If you put too much importance into the looks of your child, it can result in several different problematic dynamics.

One reaction could be the development of overconfidence. Another effect of overpraising beauty can be the development of callomania (obsession with beauty). Your child might start putting too much importance into their own appearance or of others.

How to Express Encouragement

Instead of simply praising your child, try to be more precise and find encouraging words, such as:

  • Rather than saying, “Well done, it’s awesome,” you could say, “Wow, I love the colors you used, that is so creative.”
  • When your toddler tidies up the playroom, you can say, “It’s great that you found a space for each item in your room,” rather than, “Good job!”
  • If your child had a bad day, try something like, “Tomorrow will be better; let’s have a cuddle and tell me all about what happened today.”
  • When your child helped you with a household task, you can show your appreciation by saying, “Thank you for being an active part in our household. It helped a lot that you took out the recycling bag.”
  • When your toddler feels bored, and you want to motivate them, try thinking of ideas to stimulate them. “Why don’t we start reading this new book?” or “I find that you have a great sense for colors, let’s start the new coloring book together,” are ideas you can try.

Closing Words From Parent to Parent

You might sometimes feel that it’s not easy to find the right words for your toddler. Don’t stress yourself! Simply try to show your child that you’re genuinely interested by appreciating their efforts. 

Your toddler might want to give up from time to time when trying to accomplish a new task. Your words can help them immensely. 

As parents, you set examples for healthy communication. Teaching your child that it’s worth putting effort into something can be of high value to your child’s social competencies. It can help your toddler to steadily manage the struggles of growing up.

Howard is a co-founder of Smart Parent Advice. When he isn't spending time with his wife, Kristin, or his two children, he can often be found running around on the tennis court.