All, what would be some activities that are appropriate for a primary-schooler and have fast feedback loops to help a kid learn competency development, and ultimately self-confidence?

Here is an example of a fast-feedback loop activity (not really appropriate for a primary-schooler): in powerlifting, you experience linear gains for a fairly long time. So from the first week on, you can see clear improvements in your own performance.

Here is a counter-example: in gymnastics, it takes a long time before being able to do anything other than very basic moves.

  • 1
    This is interesting, although feels like it's verging on either too broad or opinion based. I can see how it's related to your earlier Question, though :)
    – Acire
    May 8, 2015 at 18:37
  • 1
    I think it's okay as it stands - it's worded a bit confusingly because i'm not familiar with the terminology, but asking for suggestions for activities that meet a sufficiently specific I think has been held on-topic here before. I do think making it more specific would be helpful: are you talking about physical, academic, mental, etc., for example?
    – Joe
    May 8, 2015 at 19:11
  • What about adding "Something that shows rapid positive results in competency development...." May 8, 2015 at 19:48

3 Answers 3


Feedback loops can be external (a coach of some activity offers praise, your contribution is appreciated by others) or they can be intrinsic to the activity (solving a puzzle, leveling up in a game). You have to choose your activity based on your goals (is it skill competence you are after or social confidence?). Some activities might lend to both.

Some suggestions:

  • Building things. Could be Lego or Technics or wood and nails and screws. There is a reward for doing this alone ("I made this all by myself") and for doing it in a group (team pride, being part of a whole).
  • Computer programming. There are languages designed for kids, like the tried-and-true Logo (now available as a free download). Kids program a "turtle" to draw increasing difficult things. Works well alone or in pairs. I am sure there are a lot of newer options as well.
  • Robotics. You can start with programmable toys (RoboMe, Finch Robot) and gradually move to self-creations. There are robotics teams in high schools all over the world, so there is a future where this skill will be socially valuable.
  • Video games. Can be played alone or as teams. Obviously game choice is important.
  • Cooking. Not only does the result come quickly, but you get to eat it. There is also a social component if others enjoy the food with you.
  • Parent interests. Many kids love to learn side-by-side with their parents. We have almost always had a race car in the garage, which our boys learned to work on, drive, and eventually race with their dad. Other parents might share an interest like sewing, playing chess, building models, boating, etc.
  • Learning side-by-side. Find a something you don't know how to do and engage your child in learning it with you. Confidence comes from seeing his competence in comparison to an adult and from parental attention as each milestone is reached (as big or little as you want to define).
  • Research. Whenever my children asked a question, I would say "Let's look it up." We would search together for an answer, and over time they started doing this on their own. To need information and then find it is immensely gratifying, and it is an essential lifelong skill.

You have only asked about things with a fast feedback loop, but ideally you would want to help your child develop in an area that also has long-term growth available. Learning to be motivated by delayed gratification is critical to competence and confidence.


Can I suggest ice hockey? I see there are a couple of rinks with learn to skate hockey programs near Seattle. I started my daughter in an excellent one at age four (across the country from you, sorry!) solely so she could learn to skate (we were not a hockey family -- I didn't even like the sport, but I hated my own tottering, terrified-of-falling childhood experience of beginning figure skating), and she took off in her second year and never looked back.

A good learn to skate hockey program will have the kids wear hockey equipment (you have to buy it, sorry, but you can get it second-hand), and start them skating back and forth across the ice. My daughter's rink supplies chairs they can push until they feel comfortable without one. Then they go on to the fun stuff.

They start by having them line up in six lines, then blow a whistle to signal the first kid to start down the ice. At the next whistle the next kid takes off. Partway down the ice -- at the blue lines and center line usually -- they have them add something to it: jumping, standing on one leg, throwing themselves down and scrambling up, etc. Generally the kids love the falling, since they don't get hurt in all that padding. Sometimes it's just to their knees, sometimes they're supposed to roll once or twice. They slide across, scramble up, then repeat at the next line. Or they'll have them try balancing on one leg, or going down to one knee, which they won't be able to manage till they've been skating for a while, but you can see they're picking up skills to make them comfortable on the ice, skills they would use playing hockey.

They'll set up obstacle courses and relay races, skating backwards and forwards. At some point (half way through the year?) sticks are introduced and they learn to push the puck. Then half ice scrimmages start, generally way too early in the morning, but "Hey," the kids tell their babysitters, their classmates, and strangers at restaurants, "I play hockey!"

One possible advantage for a shy child: the face mask and hockey uniform give them a certain anonymity -- it's hard to see faces, and impossible to see bodies. Being a little overweight can be an advantage. Also, at seven and eight it's expected that a parent will still be coming in the locker rooms to help them get dressed, or at least tie their skates, so you can still be there to support him. Another advantage is that it's the cheapest way to learn to ski I know of. I was told of this phenomenon by another parent, so I started my daughter skiing after a year of hockey, and the instructors couldn't believe she was only five. By her sixth time on the mountain they had her in level six (of nine).

YMMV, obviously. And hockey for the older kids has its risks, same as soccer, lacrosse, and football. But they go from not being able to skate to skating to playing hockey in three months, so I'm hoping it counts as a fast-feedback loop for you, but athleticism determines how well they actually play. The ones that take to hockey love it, even if they're not that good, and can't wait for the next season to start. Once the actual hockey scrimmages/games start, you'll know if he's one of these.


Here are some activities where one can get some nice gratification:

  • forming a special relationship with a pet (becoming expert in the pet's likes and dislikes), or being a volunteer dog walker at a shelter

  • playing with a younger child who looks up to the child

  • the Suzuki method (it takes a long time to play a string instrument really well, but in the Suzuki method, the road to get there is broken up into many microsteps, and each microstep is celebrated and applauded (literally and figuratively); I would suggest choosing viola instead of violin, so as to avoid the comparisons with other students' rate of progress that is an unfortunate drawback of the Suzuki method in many places

  • avoid team sports for now

  • martial arts could be good, depending on the teacher's approach; I like judo and capoeira best, personally

  • aparente - can you please review and edit your post. Of your points, only the Suzuki violin one actually answers the question, and of that, only the first sentence is an answer (the second is an unrelated opinion piece)
    – Rory Alsop
    May 11, 2015 at 8:20

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