Children have a drive to be independent and to do things on their own. We can help young children with their independence by encouraging them to take responsibility for themselves whenever possible. Allowing your little ones to take limited control is a great way to develop self-help skills. Although it can be faster and less messy to do things for our children, they learn so much more from doing things for themselves.
When children practice self-help skills such as feeding and dressing themselves, they practice their gross and fine motor skills and gain confidence in their ability to try new things. It also helps to build self-esteem and confidence in their independence. Encouraging self- help skills from a young age will assure independence in later years too. Lighthouse has put together some suggestions that outline how you can encourage self-help skills for your child, depending on their age group.
6-12 months old
• Starting to clean face and hands with damp wash cloth (finish up with help)
• Putting their shoes away
• Feed themselves a snack – finger foods
• Hold a spoon and tooth brush to imitate parents/siblings
12-18 months old
• Exploring how to dress and undress themself
• Drinking from an open cup
• Exploring how to eat alone with a spoon or fork
• Putting toys away after playtime
• Exploring how to wash their body in the bath
18 months-2 years old
• Practicing how to put their shoes on and off
• Putting their clothes away in draws
• Brushing their hair
• Practicing pouring water from a jug to cup
• Practicing how to wipe up spills
3 years old
• Practicing how to make their own bed
• Exploring basic cooking and setting the table
• Practicing doing up zips and buttons
4-5 years old
• Learning important phone numbers such as yours (as parents) and emergency numbers too.
• Learning their home address
• Practicing tying laced shoes
All children are unique and reach the ability to complete certain skills at different times. Allowing children to explore skills, possibly fail and try again is will foster self-help skills and independence in your child. It will also help to build resilience as your little one will learn to overcome difficulties.
It can be challenging to find the right balance of giving children the freedom to learn, as well as supporting them through the learning process. Instead of intervening at tricky times, try standing back and giving your child the time they need to try it for themselves, it’s amazing just how much they can do. Keep your expectations age appropriate and be supportive with lots of encouragement and praise. Make sure the whole family is in the loop too so that they can also offer encouragement and support.