Learning to Try Again

— Written By Ali Huber

“I give up!” A phrase said and often shouted by frustrated youth as they try something new which they don’t immediately grasp. It gets even harder when they look around and see others who might be farther along. They want to succeed. They want to be competent in the skill. More than any of that, what they really want is to not fail.

This is unfortunate because out of these perceived failures comes amazing growth and development when we focus on reflecting on what went wrong and trying again. When these frustrated youth do try again they begin to develop important life skills such as resiliency, planning, goal setting, problem solving, and learning to learn.

child making a poster

Developing a New Skill

Trying again at new skills like riding a bike, reading a larger chapter book, learning to code, writing a story, painting, and any other skill is essential. If you never got back on the bike after falling off, you would have never have learned how to ride a bike.

We love for our youth to feel successful but that does not always mean that they were able to do what they set out to do immediately. Success is trying again, reflecting on what went wrong, trying something in a different way, then setting small goals for improvement. We can celebrate missteps when we learn and grow from them!

Problem Solving and Critical Thinking

A lego kit, lip balm kit, painting set, and car model are all exciting activities but can often lead to the statement, “I give up! Will you do it?” Youth feel like they are not able to complete these activities correctly because they don’t have the skills but that you, as an adult, can. They don’t want to fail. Unfortunately, that also means that they won’t end up learning how to do it.

Instead of taking over, encourage them to try. This often means it will be much messier and take longer but remember that they are learning how to problem solve. When a child hits a roadblock, encourage them to think about what did not go well and how that could be fixed. Then let their critical thinking get to work. Their ability to overcome their frustration and mistakes will build resiliency to be able to persevere in the future.

people in garden

Creating Opportunities for Learning through “Failure”

We want to provide opportunities for youth to try again in low-risk environments where they have plenty of time to try again and explore several different methods. Here a few ways to help your child learn to try again:

  • Be welcoming of projects that look different than how you envisioned- childAllowing youth the creativity and opportunity to create/explore what they envision encourages them to keep trying.
  • Take time to reflect on positives and areas for improvement in a project- Spend time discussing with your youth what went well and what they struggled with and/or would change. Ask them how they can apply that in the future. Can they change what they have already done?
  • Don’t do it for them- Allowing your youth to try and try again is important. If they feel that someone, who they think has better skills, will do it for them then they won’t try.
  • Allow unstructured play- Playing is a fantastic time for youth to try new things and develop creative problem-solving skills. (Shafer, 2018)
  • Support open-ended arts and crafts– Arts and crafts have been linked to increased scientific success in a number of studies. Youth learn spatial reasoning, observation, and visualization through arts and crafts. (Root-Bernstein and Root-Bernstein, 2013)

Opportunities in 4-H

We focus on learning by doing in 4-H and have a number of great ways for youth to explore and learn to try again!

  • 4-H Youth Explore program- This program is entirely geared to provide a space and resources for youth to explore, try to build new things, change them, and try again! Each month is a different broad challenge and then they have lots of time to just “make”.
  • Camden 4-H Clubs- We currently have three 4-H clubs that all provide lots of opportunities for youth to develop new skills and keep working towards them.
  • State 4-H Summer Camp- Summer camp is a great opportunity for youth to try lots of new things in a friendly and inviting environment.
  • 4-H Project Curriculum– We have a wide variety of project curriculum books that cover a huge range of projects. Let us know your child’s interest and we can connect you with high-quality, research-based project curriculum books for kids to explore at home!

children working on a project

To find more information and to get involved in these programs call the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Camden County Center at 252-331-7630 or email ali_huber@ncsu.edu. We are looking forward to trying new things!


Shafer, Leah. 2018. Summertime, Playtime. Harvard Graduate School of Education- Usable Knowledge.

Root-Bernstein, Robert & Root-Bernstein, Michele. 2013. The Art and Craft of Science. ASCD.

Written By

Ali Huber, N.C. Cooperative ExtensionAli HuberExtension Agent, 4-H Youth Development Call Ali E-mail Ali N.C. Cooperative Extension, Camden County Center
Updated on Feb 1, 2019
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