How to help children learn to be patient

As we head into the school summer holidays, I’ve been thinking about the things I would like to do with Rhys and Nerys during the break.

Of course the bulk of our summer to-do list is made up of things like go to the beach, play at the park all day, spend time with family and friends and generally relax and have fun.

There are some other things on that list though that I plan on doing with the children to help them both prepare for moving up a year at school when September comes around.  One of the things on that list for both of them is to work on their patience.

If you have children that, like mine, sometimes find it hard to wait patiently for things, or who interrupt others, or generally find being patient hard, here are some things that might help:



Start by slowing down 

If you always respond to your children’s requests immediately then they will always expect to get what they want straight away.  Then when they’re forced to wait in a queue somewhere, or for food at a restaurant, they’ll find it hard because they’re not used to it.

So next time you’re in the middle of making dinner and they ask you to come and see the picture they drew, explain that you’re right in the middle of something and will be with them in a minute.

Start by getting them to wait just a minute until you do what they’ve asked, then gradually increase the amount of time you ask them to wait for as they get used to the idea of you not jumping every time they want something.


Practise taking turns

One way of helping children learn to be patient is to play games that require them to take turns.  It can be as simple as a game of snap.  Or get some board games out and spend a rainy afternoon playing snakes and ladders.

These kind of games are great as children have to learn to wait for the right outcome to be able to finish the game, as well as having to wait for their turn.  Patiently waiting until you roll the right number on the dice to be able to climb the ladder and avoid the snake can be hard for children, but is a fab way to start learning to be patient to be able to get what we want.


Expose them to more situations that require patience

Now this is a hard one for me I’ll admit.  If I know my children are likely to get frustrated and wound up in a certain situation then my immediate reaction is to want to avoid that situation!  What I actually need to do is take a deep breath and expose them to that situation more, so they can practise and learn how to handle it better.

So, if you have a toddler that finds waiting for their turn on the swing at the park hard, keep taking them to the park.  The more you do it, and the more you explain the need to be nice and polite and to let others have a turn, the quicker they will learn.


Be more patient yourself

When I say I want to work on patience with the children this summer, I am aware that I also need to work on it myself.

I try and keep my patience as best I can, but I know I’m guilty of getting snappy when we need to be out the front door and they’re messing around instead of putting their shoes and coats on.  What I really need to be doing is modelling the behaviour that I want from them.

See, being patient isn’t just about waiting, it’s waiting calmly, without grumbling, nagging, sighing and so on.

So I need to allow an extra few minutes in the mornings so that Rhys can practice tying his own shoelaces without me standing over him, itching to just do it myself.  If I can keep calm, and cheerful even, when waiting for them to get a move on then they will hopefully learn to do the same when they’re waiting for something.


Acknowledge their frustration

A lot of the time children just want to be heard, and to have their feelings acknowledged.  So if you’re waiting in a queue somewhere and your child is getting impatient  then get down to their eye level and let them know that you understand that it’s hard to wait.

Naming their feelings can really help them, so talk to them about how you understand that they feel frustrated, or angry, or bored, and then help to distract them with a little game or a song to help pass the time.


Use visual or vocal measures of time

One thing that makes waiting hard for younger children is that they don’t have a concrete idea of time.

So saying ‘wait 2 minutes’ doesn’t really mean much to them.  If you set a timer for two minutes though, they can see the time going down and have a much clearer idea of how long they need to wait for.

An alternative is to let them know that you’ll be over to help them with their puzzle, for example, after they’ve sung a particular song twice.  This gives them a concrete idea of how long they have to wait, and also gives them something to do to distract them while they’re waiting.


Involve them in activities that require patience

Board games aren’t the only activity you can do with your children to help them learn to be patient.

One thing you can try is to bake cakes together.  This is something I do with my children quite a bit and I can see that it is helping them to understand that some things you just have to wait for.

Another thing you can try is planting seeds with your children.  Get some cress seeds and an empty yoghurt pot and get planting.  Talk to your children about how you can’t hurry the cress along, you just have to wait for it to grow in its own time.

Anything that helps them to understand that they can’t always have what they want immediately will contribute to their growing ability to be patient.


I’m hoping that trying a mix of all these things will really help Rhys and Nerys learn some patience.

Do you have any top tips for teaching children to be patient?  I’d love to hear them in the comments if you have found something else that works!

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