Encouraging Children’s Independence Through Everyday Tasks

Encouraging Children’s Independence Through Everyday Tasks

Does your child ever see you doing things around the house and ask if they can help you? Or stubbornly want to do things themselves at times? Children love being helpers and love getting the chance to do something grown-ups do. This is because children get a sense of pride from doing things like a grown-up or doing things themselves. Helping encourage this sense of independence in your child will help them build self-confidence, perseverance, and a sense of responsibility.  Here are some tips to encourage independence in children through everyday tasks like getting dressed, meal times, cleaning up, and household tasks.

Have children try to dress themselves. By age 5, children are usually capable of dressing themselves with little help. Having your child dress themselves can be challenging and take some extra time. Make sure to have extra time in the morning for your child to get dressed, to avoid feeling frustrated and rushed.  Make sure you are using clear, simple steps, and modeling. Your child may protest, they might get frustrated, you might hear “I can’t do it!” But don’t give up! If your child gets frustrated it can help to validate that it is hard and all that matters is that they are trying. Tell them to try first and then you will help them. By encouraging them each time just to try, they will get better and eventually be able to do it themselves. Make a big deal out of them just trying and reward them for their efforts. By having children dress themselves, you are helping them learn how to take care of themselves.

Give your child an active role in meal times. Some ideas for how children can help at meal times are: setting the table, clearing the table, washing fruits and vegetables, washing dishes, pouring  ingredients, and pouring drinks from pitchers. You can also encourage their independence during meal times through giving them an active role in feeding themselves. Give them some choices about what they eat. For example, “Would you like carrots or green beans?” Teach them how to eat with silverware and model this for them at the table. For example, how to twirl spaghetti with a fork, or how to cut pancakes with a fork and a butter knife, how to pour something into a cup, how to take things from bowls with tongs, etc. Giving children a more active role in meal times will help them be more self-sufficient in other environments like school, restaurants, or when eating in other people’s homes.

Teach children to clean up after themselves. Clean up time can be challenging for both children and parents. Children might be resistant to cleaning up or it can feel like it takes them forever to finish. Sometimes it feels easier to just do it yourself. In the long run, having children clean up after themselves will help them develop responsibility and save you some work! If your child is resistant to cleaning up, you can break the task into small steps. You can also start by giving them one specific thing to clean up. For example, “Put the blocks in the bin.” As they get more comfortable following the direction to clean up one thing, increase the amount they are cleaning up, “Put the blocks in the bin and the books on the shelf.” It can be helpful to encourage them through modeling and helping, but make sure they are still doing work and reduce how much you help as time goes on. Setting them up for a reward after they clean up can also be helpful. For example, “When you clean up, then we will play outside.” Teaching children to clean up after themselves gives them a sense of responsibility that they can apply to other tasks at school and home.

Give children a role in household tasks. Some ideas for how children can help around the house are: folding laundry, washing dishes, sweeping, wiping things down, setting the table, putting away dishes, watering plants, and yard work like weeding and planting. Children can also help at the grocery store by picking out fruit and vegetables, grabbing things from the shelves, putting items on the check stand, and carrying bags.

You might have a child who loves being a helper and finds fun in completing these tasks, or you may have a child who is resistant. For a child who is resistant, start small and set up a few tasks for them to help with and increase the tasks as they are ready. Find tasks that they are more interested in, or ways to make the tasks fun. Use rewards for completing the tasks and Praise them for their effort. Emphasize how much of a big kid they are and how much it helps your family that they are helping out. Giving children a role in household tasks gives them a sense of responsibility in their household.

By encouraging your child’s independence in everyday tasks like these, you are helping your child develop many life-long skills. Learning new skills as a child and teaching new skills as a parent can be a struggle at first, but don’t give up! It will get easier and you are helping your child make huge strides in their development! By encouraging your child’s independence, you are helping them have success in school and success as they grow into adults.

Text: © Kids In Transition to School 2019

Image: © Famveldman | Dreamstime.com

Nollie has worn multiple hats while working with the KITS Program. When she was a student at UO she was an assessor on the KITS research projects, a teacher in our school readiness groups, and a childcare assistant. Since then, she has taught KITS groups for 4J and coached other educators to implement the KITS Program.

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