Teaching Independence in The Early Years

Chores Habits Preschool The Early Years

When you’re a homeschooling family, you are likely at home 5 times more than the average family. For us, that means a lot more mess! More dishes, more dirty, more laundry and much more to pick up; it seems to come as a package.

To alleviate this some, we practice and teach independence skills from a very young age. If the youngest child can help himself with basic needs, that frees up mom.

It also lays a foundation for helping with chores and grows his confidence as a helper. Here are the basic things we do (and use: link to Amazon shop) to allow our children greater independence at home.

child pouring milk into tea.

How We Raise Independent Kids

  1. Accessibility in their room: If I want my child to be able to dress herself, I need to make her clothes accessible to her.

    We put all our our children’s clothes in low, easy to reach places. If your child’s clothes are in a dresser, make sure they can open it themselves. If you have a closet, consider putting his or her clothes in baskets or bins they can reach. This helps with putting away clothes too.

  2. Accessibility in the kitchen: This extends to the kitchen as well. We use a Berkey water filter, and make sure it’s in an area all can reach, and teach the skill of turning it on and off.

    Kid sized water glasses are kept in a basket in a low kitchen cupboard so that any child can get a drink when he or she needs. Within reason, we allow access to a small cupboard of snacks.

    This allows a young child to help with the preparation of snack time (though we have had to monitor and adjust as needed. Some of our children have been bigger snackers than others). My encouragement is to start with snacks that are less messy (like apples or granola bars) and move gradually to snacks that can make big messes (ie: goldfish).

  3. Accessibility for helping in the kitchen: My children have all been eager to help in the kitchen, which I gladly encourage, seeing as I’m making three meals a day! We have pitchers our kids can pour independently from, stools for reaching things, kid sized oven mitts, kid-safe knives and each child has his or her own apron.

    I teach each of my children how to open and close the fridge by the time they are 2 and 1/2. This does create some havoc at first, but with observation and practice, they quickly learn how to use their independence appropriately and have become great helpers in the kitchen!

  4. Accessibility in the bathroom: In the bathroom we use stools for easy access to the sink, making sure that the stool is tall enough to assist them in reaching the faucet. You’d be surprised how many stools still leave a small child struggling to reach.

    They have a low drawer with all of their things and are given changes to grow in independence with applying toothpaste, wiping counters and brushing their hair.

Many of these skills take time to grow and we haven’t introduced them all at once. But, it is amazing to see what children can do at a young age if they are encouraged to do it on their own. My two year old can dress herself, brush her own teeth, get herself a glass of water and a snack, wash her hands, and clean up after herself.

My six year old can make breakfast for the whole family! It takes patience and letting go of control, and a willingness for things to be a huge mess or done incorrectly, but the pay off is great!

preschool materials laid out in a diagonal grid

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