Storytime with Jessica – Resiliency

What is resiliency?

Resiliency is our ability to fail at something and pick ourselves up and move on. Moving on can take many guises but the two most obvious ones are trying again and letting go of our failure and moving onto something else. Resiliency can be seen in small children all of the time – when they are learning to crawl or walk or talk – they fail, they fall over and then they try again and again until they get it right. But as we get older it’s something we have to practise and something that we have to experience to develop the skill of resiliency.

Resiliency is integral to our mental health. If we cannot survive failures then we cannot function in life where failures both large and small are inevitable. This is one of the many reasons it is very important for children to see their role models (the adults in their life) fail and then move on. It could be as simple as “I’ve read the sentence wrong, I’m going to go back to the start and do that again” or laughing at a mistake like putting on different socks and then changing them. These small moments of resiliency are watched by children and taken on board and then they will try to replicate them. This is also why it is so important for children to fail, to not be the best, to sometimes have to watch as someone else wins a trophy or gets the book prize.

Emotions for children are big things to be dealing with; they are learning what their emotions are telling them and doing to them. They are learning how to deal with their own emotions and the emotions of others and how to integrate these differing needs (another amazing skill we learn through play). And like all of their emotions they are watching how the adults around them deal with these emotions and try to replicate it. Resiliency is the same. As children get older they can get frustrated with their failures and we can get frustrated with their failures as well but we need to step back and remember that each failure is also a moment for learning to be resilient. This is not always possible and dealing with our frustrations is also a very important skill to model to children.

As with all emotions, sometimes it’s a good idea to talk about it explicitly and sometimes it’s nice to use books to help model these behaviours so today’s blog is showing you some of the books out there dealing with resiliency. Sometimes a different person (or character) saying those words we have shared before can make a bigger impact. Which is one of the benefits of using books to help model these behaviours (as well as being a source of frustration for the person who had been saying it all along).

The Books

Cover Image for Stickley Makes A Mistake

Stickley Makes A Mistake by Brenda S. Miles and Steve Mack

With help from his grandpa, Stickley the frog, who hates making mistakes, learns to say “oh well,” hop up, and try again when mistakes happen.

Stickley does not like to make mistakes. Anyone experienced with small children will know that frustration children have with themselves. As with all emotions, children feel these things in a very visceral way as they are learning to deal with the emotions. Their anger is bright, their happiness is beautifully infectious, and their sadness is heart-wrenchingly tear-filled. The same is happening with their frustrations – things frustrate them and they are the most terrible frustrations that have ever existed in the world and it is overwhelming. And Stickley goes through their same process and is helped to move on and learn resiliency with his grandpa.

I Want To Win by Tony Ross

The Little Princess loves to win, and at home everyone usually lets her. At school though, even when she tries her hardest, it seems she can’t do anything right But she soon discovers that winning is much more fun when she really deserves it.

Ahh…failure. Sometimes we can try our VERY HARDEST and still not be the best. Which is terrible. Yes, failure is important and unavoidable but it’s also horrible, no good, very bad. And when we try our absolute hardest and we are still not the best it can be devastating. The consolation is that we have tried our hardest but in those first moments it’s not much of a consolation at times. This may not be one of the funnest things that we will experience but it will happen and we need to find a way to be content with that failure and to then try again on another day. This is what happens to the Little Princess. She always wins at home because people let her but she gets to school and suddenly it’s all merit based. This can be a hard transition for children because even if they have not been allowed to win at everything there may suddenly be people who are better at things when they have always been the best. We have to learn to be proud of our effort and hold this accomplishment as dearly as the ‘best’ trophy.

Cover Image for I Want To Win
Cover Image for Suri's Wall

Suri’s Wall by Lucy Estela and Matt Ottley

Eva squeezed Suri’s hand. ‘What’s there? What can you see?’ ‘What can I see?’ Suri looked out over the wall. ‘Oh, it’s beautiful, let me tell you all about it.’ A moving tale of the power of the human spirit.

Suri is a child locked behind a wall with a lot of other children. These children are scared of Suri because she is so tall. But Suri being so tall allows her to see over the wall and the power of the other children’s curiosity overpowers their fear of someone different.
This book is about being resilient when something really big and bad is happening. This is the reason we need the smaller moments of resilience, why we need to learn to be resilient because bad things can happen to us. Suri is resilient in the face of the other children’s fear. She is resilient in the situation where she finds herself. As the only tall child is is the only one who can see over the wall she is the only one who can see the real world and she shelters the other children. We learn that she can see the destruction of war over the wall but she paints another world for the other children.


Humpty Dumpty

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.


Incy Wincy Spider

Incy Wincy Spider climbed up the water spout.
Down came the rain and washed the spider out.
Up came the sunshine and dried up all the rain.
So, Incy Wincy spider climbed up the spout again.


An early and easy way to get children familiar with the idea of failure, not being picked, winning and losing is to play a game – Duck Duck Goose.

It has an easy premise if you are unfamiliar with Duck Duck Goose.

  • Children sit in a circle.
  • One person (adult or child) starts. They tap children on the top of head and say ‘duck’, move onto the next child, touch them on the head and say ‘duck’, and continue around the circle saying ‘duck’ as they go.
  • One child is ‘it’ and when you get to child ‘goose’ is said instead. Then they have to get up and chase the adult around the circle.
  • The adult has to sit back down in the spot the child was in before the child catches them.
    • If the person sits down then the ‘goose’ goes through the process.
    • If the person is caught then they go around the circle again.
    • Alternatively, this person could be out and sit in the middle until there is one person left who is the winner. (this is not the version I refer to below).

Games with winners, losers, failures, successes but no grand WINNER and the opportunity to have another go in a few turns allows children to safely and easily practise the skills of resiliency.