As children grow, they begin to desire their independence. They want to show adults that they can do things! Children may be little, but they are capable! Children want to learn self-care so that they can better maneuver the world around them. Adults whether you are a parent, educator, or family member, should try to encourage and support early independence even when they are six months old! That is when they really begin to grasp for things.
YES! Independence and self-care can start that young! As soon as they start grasping let them help with whatever you’re doing!
I have five methods to help encourage independence and self-care with your little kiddos.
Five Ways To Support Independence with Baby and Toddlers
I’ll Start, You Finish
A simple way to let your little one help is for you to start a task or a part of task and let them them complete the next or final step.
Examples: opening the top of a banana and separating part of the peel then letting your baby pull each section down; pulling your child’s arms out of sleeves then letting her pull it off of her head; loosening your baby’s shoes and slipping them off her heels then letting her pull them off.
You Start, I’ll Finish
This is a great approach for clean-up and self-care tasks that ultimately have to be done thoroughly.
Examples: letting your little one try to brush her teeth then you follow-up; allowing your little one to wipe her table or tray after meals; giving your little one a wipe to clean their hands a face after a messy meal.
Let’s Do It Together
This approach is great for very challenging tasks or tasks that require hands-on assistance for safety. It can also be hand-over-hand so they can see and feel how a task is supposed to be done.
Examples: cracking eggs into a bowl at breakfast, cutting soft foods with a child’s knife, washing dishes, pouring water on the head to rinse off at bath time.
I’ll Show You Then You Try
Try this method for tasks that require only basic skills. This is also a skill that children do normally as they watch everything adults around them do.
Examples: putting dirty clothes in a basket or hamper, pulling a hat off, or carrying a very lightweight bag of non-breakable groceries.
The simple act of letting your baby or toddler make choices is a great way to encourage early independence. This way also reduces meltdowns.
Examples: letting your child choose between two shirts, two snacks or two toys by looking, reaching, pointing or using her words.
With all of these methods, if you start to see that you child is improving on whatever task, give them more control. However, there are always going to test limits to see how much you will do for them, especially when they don’t want to do it themselves. Adults need to support independence whenever possible.
We all know that children do require a little bit more time to get ready. But as they get older, our job as adults is to help them (even if it takes ten more minutes) so that they can do things on their own. Once they can do it on their own on a regular basis, daily life becomes easier for everyone.
When children dress themselves, it is important to remember not to criticize them for their job. If their shirt is inside out, and you are okay going in public with it like that, don’t change it. You could kindly remind them that people won’t be able to see the cool design if their shirt is backwards. If their socks are upside down, leave it be, nobody will no. If their shoes are on the wrong feet, try suggesting that their feet will hurt if they keep them on the wrong feet all day. It is all about picking the right battles, some battles aren’t worth fighting (like upside down socks) every day. With practice and gentle reminders, they will succeed.
There are many ways to support independence in baby and toddlers since they soak up information.
Here are some more examples to help promote independence with your child.
- pull shirt off head
- push arms through sleeves
- pull socks off (pull off heel and loosen at toe to assist)
- grab and pull shoes off (loosen and pull off heel to assist)
- pick between two pieces of clothing
- put shoes in a basket or box by the door
- unzip jacket
- zip jacket (after you engage the zipper)
- grab and pull hat off
- pull pants off and on
Grooming and Self-Care
- brush teeth
- brush hair
- wipe face and hands
- blow or wipe nose
- pour water from cup to rinse off in bath
- rub baby-safe soap onto body
- wash hands
- pull fresh wipes from container
- hold clean diaper until you need it
- pick which towel to use
- dry off after bath time
Around the House
- wipe up spills
- open and shut doors and gates
- wash dishes
- shuck corn
- crack eggs
- pour pre-measured ingredients into bowl
- mix with spoon in bowl
- put items in trash
- pull laundry from dryer into a basket
- add dirty clothes in basket or hamper
- put fresh bags in trash containers
- store new baby wipes in container
- carry toys and books in baskets or bins
- carry a lightweight bag of non-breakable groceries
- get arms out of stroller and car seat straps once adult unbuckles
- water plants
- turn lights on or off (pick child up if step stool isn’t near to assist)
- choose between two snacks
- peel a banana
- open a container (tear packaging or loosen lid to assist)
- cut soft foods with a toddler knife
- feed self (even if it’s messy!)
- pour drink from small pitcher into cup
- wipe tray or table after meal
- wipe face and hands after meal
- put items in sink, on counter or in a tray/bucket
Encouraging independence starts early – earlier than most parents realize is even possible. Allow your kiddo to help and prepare to blown away when your itty bitty baby shows you what they CAN DO! Spending the extra time letting them do things on their own…even if they struggle, will make your life a little easier and allow them to feel accomplished in their daily tasks. 🙂