Independence is an important social-emotional skill for children to develop. As children begin to explore the world on their own terms, you may wonder how you can find the right balance between being protective and letting the, encounter new things on their own.
In preschool, your child will really begin to master independence through self-help tasks, but it’s something you can practice and encourage beforehand. Here are five ways to encourage independence in young children.
Let Them Make Decisions
Giving children two options to select from is a strategy familiar to many parents. What you may not realize is that this is a valuable way to encourage independence. This lets children choose their preferences against options presented to them.
Let them choose between carrot sticks or celery sticks during snack time. When getting dressed, ask if they would like to wear the red shirt or the blue shirt. They get to feel like they are in control while you provide age-appropriate, practical options for them to select from.
Encourage Children in Self-Help Tasks
Again, children will work on self-help tasks in school, but it’s a great idea to start working on self-help tasks at home. Children are excited to learn and try new things!
Ask them to pick up toys after playing, or put clothing in the hamper. Again, you know what to expect from your children, so adjust tasks as needed based on their age. For example, two-year-olds may still need help putting on clothes, while older preschoolers may be able to get dressed with little assistance.
Demonstrate and Talk it Out
When you are teaching children something new, talk it out or demonstrate. Remember, for young toddlers, learning should be done in a way that makes sense to them. Be patient and take your time. It might be a task that you teach and repeat a few times. Some tasks take several practice attempts before children are capable of doing them on their own. Talk through the small steps involved. Children will catch on quickly!
Expect Learning to Take Time
This may mean that getting dressed in the mornings takes a little more time, for example. Rather than jumping to do something for them, incorporate a little more time into your schedule for learning.
If children need a little help, maybe start the task, but let him or her finish it. For example, maybe you start to zip their coat, but let them finish zipping it up all the way.
Enjoy the Process
Learning new skills takes time, and children learn at their own pace! As a parent, it’s important to remember that there’s no such thing as perfection. It’s fun to watch children grow, and you’ll be proud when you look back and see the progress that they have made.
And of course, celebrate the moments when your child learns something new or masters a new skill. No matter how small it may seem, it’s a big milestone!
In addition to independence, there are many life skills children begin to learn as toddlers. Learn more about social-emotional milestones, and find out how U-GRO’s toddler curriculum teaches independence.