Sunday, 1 February 2015

How to help your child develop their independence

Developing independence and self-care skills before going to school is really important. In this post, I will be giving you some tips on how to encourage your little one's independence and help them develop those all important life skills.

Why is it so important for my toddler to develop their self-care skills and independence?

  • Confidence and self-worth - that magical moment when a child can wash their own
    hands or go to the toilet with no help is immeasurable. Being able to open their own lunchbox or dress themselves is also a superb achievement. Being able to do these things all alone will fill your little one with a sense of achievement and confidence. They will be so proud of themselves and will want you to share in that amazing feeling! It is important for your toddler to develop confidence and a sense of self-worth as it is vital for their personal well-being and development.
  • Independence at school - going to school is a huge transition in your child's life and they face a number of new challenges, some which they will enjoy and some they may find daunting. Having the skills to be relatively independent at school will help them to settle in and build their self-esteem. It is also important to note that some schools expect a certain level of independence from their pupils and they may not accept children who, for example, are not toilet-trained yet.
  • Gross and fine motor skills - dressing and undressing, putting on shoes and socks or
    twisting open lids are excellent for developing your little one's fine and gross motor skills. They will improve their strength, co-ordination, spatial awareness and control of their body. This is fantastic and will help them so much in all other aspects of their life. 
  • Communication and language - requesting help or following instructions are great skills to practice for your toddler's development. They can also talk through with you what they are doing or respond when you ask them what they should do next. It also promotes learning sequences and routines as well as an understanding of the world around them. For example, you could have a very interesting chat about germs while they are washing their hands. 

So how can I help my little one develop their independence?

Some very simple little things can help your child develop their independence. Here are just a few that I consider important:
  • Toileting - if your toddler is learning to use the toilet or is already toilet-trained,
    give them ownership of the experience by letting them pull their trousers up and down, wash their hands and flush the chain. While of course you should be there to make sure all goes smoothly, allowing them to try and do it alone will really make them feel proud and each time they will get that bit closer to independence.
  • Dressing - the same goes for getting dressed. Try and choose things that will be easy for them to master, such as pull up trousers and t-shirts. Once they have developed their confidence, then they can start to learn how to use zips and buttons. It is also nice to give them some choice in what they will wear (within reason of course!). Not only will this develop their fine and gross motor skills, it will also help them prepare for school and develop their independence!
  • Eating - I always ask my teachers to allow children to do as much for themselves as they can at snack time. It is very important for them to learn how to open and close containers, put the straw in their juice carton and how to pack their food away. It is also important for your little one to learn about healthy food choices, for example that we eat the sandwiches and fruit first and then have the biscuit as a treat at the end. While they might not get it first time and will definitely need your help, letting them develop these skills will really help them to become independent little people!
  • Self-selecting - this is similar to encouraging your toddler to have input in
    choosing their clothes. Let them choose the activity they want to do or which cup they would like to drink from. These little things will develop your child's sense of self and they will become aware of their likes and dislikes and their ability to make decisions. These things are a vital part of their personal development. 
While it can sometimes be hard when your little one doesn't need so much help and support anymore, remember it is really good for them in the long run. Good luck!

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See you soon!

Katie is an Early Years specialist in Dubai, where she 
manages an EYFS nursery. She has a special interest 
in psychology and early childhood development. 


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