Examples of Scaffold Parenting & How It Works

Scaffold parenting is a method of teaching during which a knowledgeable adult collaborates with a child to help them learn concepts they would not have been able to learn on their own. It is most compatible with authoritative parenting and can be incorporated as an add-on tool to this parenting style.

There are many different ways we raise our children and various parenting styles such as authoritarian, authoritative, and helicopter. There are also many ways we can teach our children. A learning tool often used by teachers in their classrooms is scaffolding. However, parents can also use scaffolding as a teaching tool at home. So what is scaffolding?

The authoritative parenting style is universally considered to have some of the best outcomes for children. When incorporated with these styles, scaffolding can ensure even better results for our children in the long run. Let’s explore how scaffolding can benefit our children and how we as parents can use it to teach them at home.

Tall scaffolding in the distance

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What Is Scaffolding, And How Can It Benefit Your Child?

The theory of scaffolding is based on the psychologist Lev Vygotsky’s work in the 1930s. Vygotsky posited that through guided collaboration with a more knowledgeable person, children could learn new skills and ideas that they would not have been able to figure out on their own. Vygotsky’s theory is also associated with what is known as the zone of proximal development.

The zone of proximal development happens in three stages. During the first stage, the child knows nothing and cannot complete a task alone. Then, with the guidance of a knowledgeable adult, the child learns how to complete the job. During the last stage, the child can complete the task independently without help. Scaffolding is a great way to teach your child independent thinking skills.

Research conducted on the zone of proximal development found that children performed better on the second attempt at a task if they had guidance during their first try. Vygotsky also posited that the level of direction should be tailored to the child’s needs. Therefore, the more difficulty a child has with a task, the more guidance we can give them.

Not only does scaffolding help with our children’s cognitive development, but it can also be great for their mental health and help us bond with them. For instance, providing guidance to our children during a task can lower the frustration they experience and also gives us an opportunity to teach them how to handle any frustration they do experience in a healthy way.

Scaffolding can also help our children trust us more, as it allows us to demonstrate our knowledge. Additionally, if we make the task we are helping them with fun, it will also strengthen our relationship with them. Our children’s interaction with us, teachers, and fellow students during scaffolding activities can help our child’s social development.

 Some additional benefits of scaffolding for our children are:

  • increased motivation
  • increased engagement
  • better focus
  • decreased anxiety
  • decreased uncertainty
  • increased self-confidence
  • Helps us identify gaps in our children’s learning which we can then address to help them further

Examples Of Scaffolding Being Used As A Learning Tool

At home, parents can incorporate scaffolding while teaching their children essential life skills such as mopping or cooking. Parents can make these activities fun and interesting for their children by incorporating games into these tasks. For instance, one parent and child can compete against the other parent to see who makes the best omelet, with the winner getting a fun prize.

Scaffolding is also used by school teachers. For instance, one way in which teachers use scaffolding is to pause from time to time during their lectures to ask strategic questions to gauge whether students understand. If there are students who do not understand, the teacher will explain the concept in more detail.

Another way some teachers use scaffolding is by pairing less knowledgeable students with more knowledgeable students to complete a task activity together. It is a great way for children to learn and develop social skills. Teachers will often use visual aids and model how to complete a task before letting their students attempt it. There are many more ways teachers make use of scaffolding.

Scaffolding even has a place in high school and college, with teachers and lecturers using it to teach their students. Lecturers will often give their students formative assessment exercises to complete. To help the students successfully complete the exercise, the lecturer will also provide resources such as reading material, examples, and templates.

Related Reading: How Teachers Deal With Helicopter Parents

What Types Of Scaffolding Are Used To Teach Children?

There are three main types of scaffolding that can be employed:

  1. sensory
  2. graphic
  3. interactive.

Sensory scaffolding uses physical objects and visual aids to teach children. For instance, instead of just verbally describing an apple, we could show our children a picture or video of an apple or, better yet, offer them an actual apple to see, feel, and eat.

With graphic scaffolding, teaching aids such as charts, graphic organizers, tables, and infographics are used to teach children. Graphic scaffolding is a great way to help us teach our children about workflows and conceptual ideas. 

As the name implies, interactive scaffolding uses collaborative learning techniques to teach children. It includes collaboration between teachers and children, parents and their children, or children amongst themselves. Some good interactive learning activities include simulations, puzzles, and problem-solving.

The type of scaffolding used can be varied according to the children’s needs and learning styles, as children do not all learn the same way. We could even opt to incorporate all three types of scaffolding when teaching our children if it will be helpful to them.

What Are The Characteristics Of Scaffold Parenting?

Experts posit that scaffold parenting can be characterized as follows:

  • Having empathy for our children: Letting them know that we understand why they made a mistake or got frustrated and following it up with constructive feedback will let them know that they are not alone in the learning process.
  • Validating our children’s efforts: Even if our children are battling to complete a task successfully, validating their efforts will teach them not to give up when they face difficult situations in their lives. It will also teach them that failure is not the end but can be used as a learning experience.
  • Intervening at the right time and in the right way: When it becomes apparent that our children cannot complete an activity independently, we should intervene to help them. However, instead of completing the activity for them, we should work with them by providing guidance and tips to help them figure it out.
  • Providing structure by creating a daily routine: The structure of a daily routine makes our children feel less anxious and more secure since they will know what to expect on a daily basis. The recurrence of a daily routine will also help foster lifelong learning.
  • Encouraging our children: If our children fail at a task or are getting frustrated because they are struggling with it, encouragement from us can go a long way towards building their confidence and helping them not to get discouraged. We can let them know that even though they may struggle with this activity, there are plenty of other things they are good at.

Some of the above characteristics overlap with the authoritative parenting style. In the next subheading, we will explore the similarities between scaffold parenting and authoritative parenting.

Which Parenting Style Is Most Compatible With Scaffolding?

Scaffold parenting is most compatible with the authoritative style of parenting. It is consistent with authoritative parenting since the desired outcome of scaffolding is to help children eventually be able to learn independently and become academically successful. As with authoritative parenting, scaffold parenting also provides a structure for our children.

Scaffolding and authoritative parenting are also similar in the sense that they seek to strike a balance between intervening and allowing the child to learn themselves. For instance, the authoritative parent will sometimes let their child make a mistake instead of intervening beforehand. It is because there are occasionally scenarios where a child can learn more effectively through their mistakes.    

Scaffolding also uses empathy, positive encouragement, and validation. For instance, if our child gets frustrated when battling to complete a task, they often get angry and throw a tantrum. Instead of getting angry with our children in this scenario, we would calmly intervene and show them how to complete the task, which also teaches them how to deal with their frustration more healthily.

As with scaffolding, authoritative parenting also uses modeling in its approach to teaching children. For instance, a parent who remains calm when angry is an effective way to teach the child to do the same. It is because children are more prone to imitate what their parents do rather than listen to what their parents tell them.

What Parenting Styles Are Least Compatible With Scaffolding?

Scaffold parenting is incompatible with helicopter parenting since helicopter parents tend to be overly involved in their children’s learning process. Helicopter parenting often results in children being excessively dependent on their parents and unable to think or learn independently. It, therefore, results in the opposite outcome of scaffolding.  

Scaffold parenting is also incompatible with the authoritarian parenting style, as the authoritarian parent is extremely strict and requires complete obedience from the child. Instead of calmly intervening to show the child how to complete the task if they get frustrated, as is done in scaffolding, the authoritarian parent will shame and punish the child for getting frustrated.

Another critical difference between scaffolding and authoritative parenting is that independent learning is discouraged, even if it may not necessarily be the parent’s intent. It is because authoritative parents expect their children to hold the same opinions they do and will punish the child if they feel differently. It will discourage the child from learning independently in other areas as well.

The authoritative parenting style is also characterized by little or no empathy, while empathy is one of the main characteristics of scaffolding. For instance, if a child does something incorrectly, the authoritarian parent is more likely to give negative feedback instead of nurturing constructive feedback.

Related Reading: Movies with Great Examples of Parenting Styles

Examples Of Scaffolding Activities We Can Do With Our Kids

Some experts recommend the following educational activities we can do with our children at home:

  • Cooking or baking: We can choose a simple recipe and cook or bake them with our children. Depending on the developmental stage of our children, we can assign certain aspects of the recipe to them and provide instructions on what to do. We can then scaffold our children’s learning as needed.
  • Jigsaw puzzles: Building a jigsaw puzzle is a great way to scaffold, as it allows you to create a balance between your child attempting to complete it on their own and your intervention.
  • Workbooks with fun activities: Choose a workbook with age-appropriate activities. We can explain the instructions to our children for each activity in the workbook and let them attempt it themselves first. If they battle, we can provide clues to help them figure out how to complete the activity successfully.
  • Origami: This is an excellent way to employ scaffolding, and since it has various difficulty levels, we can use this activity throughout many stages of our children’s development. It is also very inexpensive and will significantly help parents with constrained budgets.
  • Spelling games: Spelling games are excellent for scaffolding, and there are plenty of fun spelling games we can play with our children both indoors and outdoors.
  • Blank maps: Using detachable labels, we can show our children a few cities, countries, or continents on a map. We can then take these labels off, hand them to our children and ask them to place the correct tag on the correct city, country, or continent.

Teaching our children life skills, such as cleaning, sewing, and knitting, are also great for scaffolding and will be helpful to them once they are grown up and living on their own. It can also help us bond with our children.

How Can We Support Our Children During Scaffold Tasks?

We can offer the following types of support to our children, which also come naturally to us as parents:

  • Physical: Depending on the activity, we can physically point to strategic areas that will provide our children with hints and tips on how to complete the task.
  • Verbal: We can support our children verbally by explaining the instructions for the activity beforehand and repeating them as needed. We can also give our children hints and examples, ask strategic questions, and let them know gently if they are starting to head down the wrong track.
  • Emotional: If our child does well, we can praise them by telling them what a great job they did and perhaps also give them a high-five or hug them. If they are battling with the activity and are getting upset, we can comfort and encourage them by telling them they can do it, holding them, rubbing their back, or kissing them.

The above forms of support can be used separately according to our child’s needs or form part of the activity collectively if that is what they need.

What To Avoid When Using Scaffolding To Teach Our Children

As tempting as it may be, it would not be good if we hover over our children the entire time that they try to figure out how to complete a task. It will make them nervous, which will make it hard for them to concentrate. Instead, it would be better if we check in with them periodically and ensure they know they can ask for help if needed.

Additionally, we must not intervene with guidance or assistance too early in the activity, as this could potentially frustrate our children. We should give our children a fair chance to try and accomplish the task themselves. We could check in with them to gauge their progress and look for cues that may show they are battling or wait until they ask for our assistance.

It would also be good for us to avoid completing an activity for our children if they struggle. This will prevent them from effectively learning what we are trying to teach them. Instead, it would be better if we provided hints that would help them figure it out. If our children are really battling, we can get increasingly specific and clear with the instructions and guidance we provide.

Since scaffolding will require a lot from you as a parent, it can be very easy to get discouraged or frustrated if it takes your child a bit longer to learn particular things. We must remember that our children will not be good at everything, nor do they have to be. As our children grow up, we will learn what their strengths are and can then help guide them toward a bright and happy future.

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Scaffolding is a collaborative teaching method that a parent can employ to teach their children skills and concepts they would not be able to learn independently. It can benefit our children’s development in many ways, such as cognitive, social skills, and independent thinking.

It can also be a fantastic way to build trust and strengthen our bond with our children. Scaffolding can easily be incorporated into the authoritative parenting style, as it shares many of the same characteristics. On the other hand, scaffolding cannot be integrated with authoritarian and helicopter parenting as it is too different from these parenting styles.

Some great scaffolding activities we can do with our children at home include cooking, baking, origami, and jigsaw puzzles.

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