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Deliberate Practice for Kids

Difficulty: Casual | Frequency: Variable | Duration: Variable
Deliberate Practice for Kids

Why You Should Try It

Children aren’t always motivated to practice, and they don’t always practice in the right way. This might be due to misconceptions about success—believing that successful people don’t experience struggles and failures—or negative experiences with practice—feeling frustrated or confused and taking it as evidence that they are not capable of learning something new. Research shows that addressing these misconceptions and teaching children to rethink their negative emotions during practice can encourage them to stick with it. 

Employers overwhelmingly believe that reliability is an extremely important qualification for their entry-level positions. Deliberate practice is a technique that will help kids perform more reliably, setting them up for later success.

Time Required

Deliberate practice is a technique that your children can engage in whenever they want to develop a difficult skill. You can offer some guidance on how to do it, particularly when you see them struggling and in need of encouragement. These conversations can take anywhere from five to 30 minutes. 

How to Do It

Kids practice to reach all kinds of goals—writing their names, dribbling a basketball, playing a song on the guitar. Deliberate practice is a research-based technique that will make their practice sessions more effective so they can improve over time. 

Teach your kids these four principles of deliberate practice: 

Because deliberate practice is hard, you can offer a few tips to help motivate your children to engage in it:

Evidence It That Works

Eskreis-Winkler, L., Shulman, E. P., Young, V., Tsukayama, E., Brunwasser, S. M., & Duckworth, A. L. (2016). Using wise interventions to motivate deliberate practice. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 111, 728–744. 

Students participated in a program that focused on changing their beliefs about failure, frustration, practice, and talent. After one academic term, they were more motivated to engage in deliberate practice and improved their math achievement, course grades, and GPA compared to students who learned about study skills or about interests and achievement.

Why to Try It

Deliberate practice takes effort. For adults and children alike, whether we engage in effortful behavior partly depends on whether we believe we can succeed. 

This practice helps children rethink the ways they view success so they can be more persistent at a difficult task. For instance, when children learn that practice is a stronger determinant of success than talent, then success may seem more achievable—which can lead them to keep doing the hard work. Sharing their experiences of deliberate practice with others helps children solidify their belief in the technique, so that they are more motivated to continue engaging in it.   


Lauren Eskreis-Winkler, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania