How To Get Your Preschooler More Independent By Danielle Mantakoul
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Teaching a skill such as independence must start early. Danielle Mantakoul Early Childhood Teacher shows you how to get your preschooler more independent.
With kids the goal is simple right? Get them to eventually be capable adults who have all the skills they need to take care of themselves. When many of us think about independence, we don’t tend to jump to thoughts of the preschooler, but rather the now adult child who can cook for themselves and do their own washing! But it’s even before the early preschool years that your child has already started to work on their independence, every time your child moves past a milestone, independence grows. But walking and talking come from a human desire to survive, a primal instinct. What about those areas of growth that need to be learnt to not just survive, but thrive without us. These tend to be the opportunities that are not presented naturally, but ones where we need to make the decision to allow our child to experience.
Breaking old habits
It can be very easy to continue to do things for our kids even though they can now do it themselves. This is because we get ourselves into the habit of doing it. For preschoolers here the thought of putting shoes on comes to mind. Your child struggling with their own shoes doesn’t mean they can’t do it, it simply may mean you need to provide them with some strategies to get the job done. A fun way to get your child doing some of those tasks of a morning that you would normally do is to create a routine or job chart for them. Charts can provide kids with a sense of achievement, after all, you know how good it feels to mark something off your to do list, kids are the same.
Let your child find their voice.
We can’t help it. We want to explain our child to the world. “He does this because of this, he actually said this not that, he wants to know if…”. While there are certainly times we must speak for our child, there are also plenty of opportunities we can be missing to let them speak for themselves. There is nothing wrong with filling in the gaps for the listener after your child has spoken, but they should firstly be given the opportunity to speak up. Some of us have become so accustomed to talking for our kids that we even translate grunts or pointing when they can speak beautifully. The road to independence is a vocal one, so ensure you are giving them ample opportunity to speak when spoken to. A classic example here is when the doctor asks them how they are feeling. Of course we need to fill in the important details, but we should also be giving them a chance to flex their independent muscles.
Reassuring smiles, thumbs up, winks, hugs all encourage our kids when they are showing signs of independence. That first time your child is trying to explain to the doctor how they feel, a reassuring nod from you can encourage your child to keep going, they they are on the right track and doing a good job with their explanation.
Sometimes it can be your lack of body language that can also assist your child to be independent. If your child eyes you looking at them if they have fallen, this can tend to lead to tears. If you know your child is OK, simply pretending that you did not see them fall can result in the child simply moving on rather than ending up in tears.
While it is important to be providing our kids with opportunities for independence, it is of vital importance that the experiences you are presenting to your child are age/stage appropriate and achievable. We don’t want to set our kids up for failure. It’s one thing to allow them to fail, but to set them up to do so has little benefit. If your expectations are unrealistic, this simply creates frustration for both of you and a contagious “I can’t do it” attitude.
Give Choice a Chance
Providing kids with choice encourages independence by helping our kids to get to know themselves better and to understand that they can make some great decisions on their own. When buying them clothes or necessities, instead of just buying, ask their opinion. Purchasing something for yourself, ask them if they like it. Allowing kids to have choice and opportunities for opinion also helps them to better understand their own identity and makes them more brave when going it alone.